Articles

  • A bagworm in the Charlotte neighborhood of Dilworth.

    Finding the beauty in a bagworm

    The overall cluster was about the size of my fist.  A woven cylindrical core was decorated with willow oak leaves, some of them whole and others torn.  They had been applied in an intriguingly symmetrical pattern, creating the effect of wings and a tail.  Tiny twigs with swollen buds had also been incorporated into the design, their weight providing a ballast.  The creature twirled and fluttered in the breeze, a sylvan ballerina.
  • Charlotte Center City Partners' 2020 Vision Plan was adopted in 2011. Planning is underway for the next vision plan, to go through 2040. Photo: Center City Partners 2020 plan cover.

    Charlotte is planning a new vision for center city. How’d we do on the last one?

    Charlotte is a city that loves big plans and heady visions. And since the 1960s, making a new plan for the city’s center has been the most regularly repeated tradition in Charlotte visions. Last week, Charlotte Center City Partners formally kicked off their next planning effort, meant to guide the development of uptown, South End and the neighborhoods just west of Charlotte for the next two decades.
  • A new program to fund and support faculty research into some of the most pressing issues facing Charlotte is getting underway this fall, with fellowships from the Urban Institute. Photo: Nancy Pierce.

    The Urban Institute Research Faculty Fellows seek to better our region

    A new program designed to identify solutions for some of the pressing needs and issues of the greater Charlotte region is getting underway this fall at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. For the first time, the Institute has named a cohort of Faculty Fellows to conduct short-term research projects and work alongside community stakeholders to understand and share findings that can guide community decision-making.
  • Rickey Hall,  a lifelong west Charlotte resident who co-founded the West Charlotte Community Land Trust, and executive director Charis Blackmon in front of the first lot the group purchased, on Tuckaseegee Road.

    Can a community land trust stop gentrification in west Charlotte? This group thinks so.

    With a full-time executive director and a $200,000 grant, a three-year-old west Charlotte nonprofit is accelerating its efforts to stave off displacement with a housing strategy that’s unprecedented in this fast-developing city.
  • Optimist Hall, a food hall and Duke Energy Innovation Center, is in a reused mill that dates to 1891.

    Charlotte’s torn down a lot of old buildings. But one type has staying power.

    Breweries, apartments, hip food halls, creative offices, coworking spaces: Charlotte developers keep finding new uses for the city’s old mills. As a post-war, Sunbelt boomtown, Charlotte has garnered a reputation for tearing down its old buildings and replacing them with sterile plaques to make way for the city’s glittering new skyline. But while many once-grand buildings have fallen (Goodbye, Masonic Temple and Hotel Charlotte), the humble, sturdy mill has proved surprisingly resilient. 
  • Piazza Navona in Rome. Credit: Paul Edmondson/National Trust for Historic Preservation

    Why do old places matter? A Mecklenburg native explores the question.

    Why do we care about old places, and why should we work to preserve them? A Huntersville native and prominent national preservationist takes a look at those questions through a lens that stretches from Eastland Mall to the historic wonders of Rome. 
  • Light rail and TOD development make their mark in University City. From this intersection to Uptown by rail takes about 20 minutes. Photo by Nancy Pierce.

    (Almost) everything you ever wanted to know about TOD but were afraid to ask

    Since City Council approved TOD Article 15 - the new Transit-Oriented Development ordinance - last April, land use consultants, architects, real estate attorneys and other insiders have had ample opportunity to sort out these new rules. As for laypersons, gleaning what they need to know from TOD’s eighty-one page assemblage of definitions, rules, standards, charts and graphics can be a real challenge, despite efforts by staff planners to make the document as jargon-free and user-friendly as possible. 
  • Climbing out of poverty to wealth is hard in Charlotte, research has shown. But children might struggle to reach even the middle of the income distribution over their lifetime. Photo: Samuel Zeller via Unsplash.

    How likely are Charlotte-area kids born into poverty to move up the income ladder?

    Fifty out of 50: That’s where the Charlotte area ranked in Harvard economist Raj Chetty’s influential 2014 study of economic mobility. By now, that headline finding is well-known. It’s spawned task forces and soul-searching in Charlotte for half a decade, as leaders seek a way to change the city’s dynamic and increase upward mobility. So, it’s hard to move from the bottom to the top. But what about other, less dramatic moves that can still vastly improve a person’s circumstances - say, from the lowest one-fifth of the ladder to the middle fifth?
  • Construction on a new, luxury apartment building in Dilworth. Photo: Nancy Pierce.

    A builder’s perspective: Housing affordability is about more than subsidies

    Charlotte has a problem with housing affordability for many of its citizens. But the solution is more complicated and nuanced than just putting more money into subsidies. The housing affordability problem is primarily a result of the combination of two basic factors: It is getting more and more expensive to develop and operate housing, while at the same time, many families don’t have enough income to meet the required prices associated with these higher costs.  
  • The I-77 bridge (foreground) over the Catawba River, south of Charlotte. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    Why isn’t Charlotte built on the water?

    After visiting a city with a waterfront, maybe stopping for a drink and a bite to eat along whichever river or ocean it’s built along, I’m usually left with one overriding thought: “Wow, Charlotte could really use some of this.” Water plays a prominent role in the design and history of most cities, whether it be a river, bay or ocean. And Charlotte’s skyline and downtown sit tantalizingly close-but-yet-so-far from a major river and lake system. So, the question looms: Why isn’t Charlotte built on the water?  It’s a straightforward question I realized I had never actually asked, despite a decade living in Charlotte. So I called up an expert.