Articles

  • The 1903 Carnegie Library in Charlotte
  • CATS buses in uptown Charlotte

    Book review: Can we fix our struggling bus systems?

    There’s been a lot of discussion lately within transit planning circles about how to attract customers to ailing regional bus networks that connect core cities, nearby towns, and far-flung suburbs — including the Charlotte Area Transit System. A handful of bus systems have actually grown, such as Austin, Houston and especially Seattle. But overall, the prognosis for bus ridership is grim.
  • Cyclists enjoy pedaling through downtown and making stops at breweries and bottle shops. Photo courtesy Burke TDA.

    Building on natural assets: How Burke County is capitalizing on recreation

    Rural communities around Charlotte are looking for new economic engines. Urban residents are looking for more outdoor recreation. That provides an opportunity for communities around Charlotte to use their public lands and waterways to fuel growth.  And two areas in the region that were ahead of the curve offer lessons for other communities trying to tap this potential source of growth (one in the Uwharries east of Charlotte, and the other in Burke County). Here, we take a look at the experience of Burke County, and how it might inform the efforts of other communities in the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection region that are interested in tapping into the outdoor recreation industry.
  • Nancy Gottovi, executive director of STARworks, has created a space for artists to hone and sell their crafts in the Uwharries region east of Charlotte. Photo: Jeff Michael

    How to brand a region: Searching for authentic identity in the Uwharries

    Rural communities around Charlotte are looking for new economic engines. Urban residents are looking for more outdoor recreation. That provides an opportunity for communities around Charlotte to use their public lands and waterways to fuel growth. And two areas in the region that were ahead of the curve offer lessons for other communities trying to tap this potential source of growth (one in the Uwharries east of Charlotte, and the other in Burke County). Here, we take a look at the experience of the Uwharries, and how it might inform the efforts of other communities in the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection region that are interested in tapping into the outdoor recreation industry.
  • Boaters on the Falls Reservoir outside Badin, adjacent to the Uwharrie National Forest and Morrow Mountain State Park. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    Recreation as economic development: Lessons from two approaches

    Rural communities around Charlotte are looking for new economic engines. Urban residents are looking for more outdoor recreation. That provides an opportunity for communities around Charlotte to use their public lands and waterways to fuel growth. And two areas in the region that were ahead of the curve offer lessons for other communities trying to tap this potential source of growth. 
  • A one-lane gravel road in the Uwharries. Photo: Crystal Cockman

    A changing landscape: Who are the Uwharries for?

    In the years after World War II, my dad could roam the Uwharries with his .22 and his trusty squirrel dog, a feist named Spot. A boy didn’t have to worry about trespassing on a neighbor’s property; he only had to avoid the occasional moonshine still. Despite changes in land use — and an influx of outdoor enthusiasts from across the Piedmont and beyond — boys (and girls) in the Uwharries can still enjoy a reasonable facsimile of my dad’s experience, assuming they can tear themselves away from their screens. The area’s steadily growing range of recreational opportunities provides an opportunity to draw in more visitors from across the region — but also poses challenges for locals used to long-standing traditions like hunting.
  • Great Falls, South Carolina (SC) paddling.

    Rebuilding the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection: Where do we go from here?

    Our purpose in studying the 32-county region wasn’t to merely document a Carolinas version of the familiar urban-rural divide. Instead, we sought to go beyond the conventional narrative of an irreversible split, and seek examples of connections –  either residual or new – between urban and rural communities. Connections that might provide opportunities for renewal in places still struggling to adapt to the changing economic landscape of the 21st century.
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway in the Pisgah National Forest.

    How our changing landscape sustains us all

    Ecosystems such as forests and wetlands provide clean air and water, food, building materials, and recreational opportunities. The benefits people receive from nature are referred to as “ecosystem services.”  Our interactions with ecosystems can have a positive impact, boosting our health and the economy. We can also have a negative impact on the health and survival of these natural resources.
  • Workers sewing at Opportunity Threads, an employee-owned business based in Morganton. Photo courtesy Opportunity Threads.

    Homegrown economic development: Turning to entrepreneurship

    Outside of booming cities, can entrepreneurship “save” Main Street?  Longtime practitioners who have researched or designed entrepreneurship strategies across the country see it as the surest route to helping rural and small-town communities survive and thrive.
  • South Fork Village Construction Cramerton NC Gaston County

    Small towns and rural communities seek to boost affordable housing

    Although housing affordability is often thought of as an issue in big cities, rural and suburban communities alike are struggling with the affordable housing crisis. And, like Charlotte, smaller communities are trying to figure out how to deal with the ballooning problem with limited resources. Regardless of where people are choosing to live, salaries aren’t keeping up with rapidly increasing housing prices for both renters and buyers.