Articles

  • 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. 
  • A hellbender being measured on the New River.

    Hellbenders offer a window into water’s health

    Hellbenders - a species of large salamander with an evocative name - can tell us something about the health of a river. Macroinvertebrates are good indicators of water health across the state. Insects, crustaceans, molluscs, and arachnids can all tolerate water quality in different degrees. Mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, hellgrammites are all highly sensitive to pollution. Their presence anywhere indicates good water quality. Dragonflies, damselflies, crayfish and clams are somewhat tolerant of pollution. Black fly larvae, lunged snails, and leeches are all pollution-tolerant.
  • a corkscrew rush (Juncus effusus) in a garden setting.

    Rushes can restore some ecosystems - and beautify your backyard

    Common rush (Juncus effusus) is often used in riparian restoration projects. It provides cover for wildlife and helps stabilize soil and filter stormwater runoff, and it can be found throughout the Uwharries. Jim Matthews, professor emeritus at UNC Charlotte and founder of Habitat Assessment and Restoration Professionals, calls it the “Cadillac of wetland plants” because it can grow in standing water but also tolerate dry spells.
  • Novel Stonewall Station construction

    Turning to a board game for insights on planning Charlotte’s growth

    It isn’t quite “Risk” or “Monopoly” or even “Settlers of Catan.” But city officials are using feedback from a new board game called “Growing Better Places: A More Equitable and Inclusive Charlotte,” as they craft the comprehensive plan and unified development ordinance that are meant to guide the next two decades of growth. 
  • Raleigh writer Scott Huler in 2015, braving the 100-degree sun along North Tryon Street beside light rail construction. The street is likely the Indian Trading Path, where explorer John Lawson walked in January 1701. Photo: Mary Newsom

    Review: In ‘A Delicious Country,’ an author rediscovers the Carolinas

    You probably have never heard of John Lawson. Scott Huler aims to change that. Lawson was an Englishman and explorer who, over two months in late 1700 and early 1701, traveled almost 600 miles through the Carolinas, including through what’s now Charlotte. His book, A New Voyage to Carolina, recorded the terrain, plants and people he found. It was, as Huler writes, one of the most important early books to emerge from the colonial South.