Articles

  • Construction on the Blue Line extension from uptown to UNC Charlotte. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    The Charlotte region just inched closer to its first regional transit plan

    Charlotte officials moved one step closer to a regional transit plan this week, approving an agreement to hire a consultant and craft a vision for the city and a dozen surrounding counties.
  • A rendering of the Kannapolis ballpark under construction on the site of a former textile mill. Officials expect it to open in April 2020. Courtesy Kannapolis.

    Baseball as a redevelopment strategy? Three cities pin their hopes on it

    In the wake of manufacturing-based economies that once formed the basis for much of the region’s prosperity, three cities in the Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection study area are hoping the crack of a bat will give them a second chance.  Gastonia and Kannapolis were once regional textile powerhouses, while High Point remains an important player in the furniture market. They’re all investing tens of millions of dollars in new, minor league baseball stadium meant to spur adjacent redevelopment and draw people back downtowns that have been hollowed out by the departures of major employers and retailers.
  • Emma Hendel, who co-owns Fair Share Farm in Pfafftown, NC, with her husband Elliot Seldner, working at a food stand. Photo courtesy Fair Share Farm.

    Farm-to-table: A trendy-but-tenuous urban-rural connection

    It’s Monday, and farmer Isaac Oliver begins his week at the computer.  Out on their 72-acre Harmony Ridge Farms in Tobaccoville, Isaac and dad Kevin raise ducks, harvest eggs and grow produce. At the start of each week, Isaac emails his list of available products to nearly 70 restaurants in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh and Durham. Over the next few days, chefs text or email him what they want. “A restaurant in Charlotte orders 20 ducks every week and a lot of our eggs are on standing order, but otherwise, it’s week-to-week,” Isaac said. 
  • Mapping out Charlotte’s future: Streets plan accounts for more than cars

    Charlotte planners are trying to change the city’s decades-long focus on building streets solely for cars with an effort to map and plan for future bicycle lanes, expanded sidewalks and more accommodations for alternative ways of getting around like scooters. The first phase of that effort — mapping and planning for the streets along the Blue Line — is nearing completion, with Charlotte City Council expected to adopt the plans Oct. 28. After that, city planners will expand the planning effort to streets along the future Gold Line streetcar and Silver Line light rail corridors, then citywide.
  • Mike Vaughn owns Great Falls Adventures. Here, he guides a tour of Stumpy Pond. Great Falls, S.C. and Badin, N.C., are both hoping to draw visitors, investment and economic revival with ecotourism and paddling on the rivers that flow past what were once thriving textile and steel towns. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    'A wilderness experience': Do rivers hold the key to rebirth for these towns?

    Where the hard rock of the Piedmont gives way to the sandy Coastal Plain, two company towns that lost their companies are looking for economic revival to the rivers that put them on the map. Great Falls in South Carolina and Badin in North Carolina grew up along the geologic fall line beside wild, majestic stretches of whitewater that entrepreneurs harnessed for electricity and for industry, a quintessential American story retold up and down the East Coast in the early 1900s. Now, years after the textile mills in Great Falls quit spinning on the Catawba River and the aluminum smelter in Badin shut its furnaces on the Yadkin, both towns hope to reinvent themselves with a new kind of industry: ecotourism.
  • Volunteers for  Sandhills Farm-to-Table, a subscription-based community supported agriculture (CSA) and online food store, pack just-picked local produce into delivery boxes at the Sandhills AGInnovation Center. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    Connecting our region through local food systems

    In any conversation about strengthening urban and rural connections, local food systems are usually suggested as the prime example. Images of farmers’ markets come to mind, where urban consumers have the opportunity not only to buy fresh fruits and vegetables but to get to know the growers and producers. In reality, the food system is more complex, and involves more than just growing food and bringing it to the table. It reflects an array of regulations, policies and markets. So what do we know about local food systems in our region? What impact do they have on urban and rural consumers, as well as regional social well-being and economic connections? 
  • Davon Goodwin, manager of the Sandhills AGInnovation Center, has a mission to get more farmers in the field. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    A 'crisis that's brewing': How this program plans to help NC farmers

    “There is a crisis that’s brewing,” said Davon Goodwin. “We have a lack of farmers and we have more people to feed. If that trend continues, it’s going to be bad.”
  • Davon Goodwin, left, manages the Sandhills AGInnovation Center, a program that's meant to help farmers in Richmond and Montgomery counties, east of Charlotte. Photo: Nancy Pierce

    What ties urban, rural areas together? Forum will highlight connections

    The Charlotte region rose to prosperity on the strength of ties between its rural areas and urban center, but those ties have frayed in recent decades, with the decline of the textile industry and Charlotte’s emergence as an independent finance center. The first annual Schul Forum Series, hosted by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, will examine what remains of those economic, social and cultural connections, and how we can work to revive them.
  • Chris Cagle in the Eldorado Outpost, the store and gathering spot where he introduces people to the Uwharries. Photo: Jeff Michael

    Chris Cagle: Bringing urban cash into a rural economy

    This story is one of seven vignettes in the series Rural by Choice: Navigating Identity in the Uwharries.  Hard-earned paychecks in the Uwharries are all too often spent at chain stores with headquarters in far-flung locations, or at restaurants and shops in large cities, sending cash from rural to urban areas instead of keeping it in the local economy.   The Eldorado Outpost has helped reverse that flow.