Mecklenburg

May 27, 2020
June is upon us, and the rush of activity in the ponds, streams, and vernal pools of our state is already well underway. For many native frogs, it’s breeding season. Right now is a great time to experience the variety of nighttime songs that signal the return of summer in our waterways. The best part is, you don’t need to collect ticks or put on a pair of waders to do so. Frog songs can be enjoyed from a distance, just about anywhere there’s trees, grass or water. So grab your favorite beverage, head to the porch, and enjoy this guide to identifying a few of the most commonly-heard frog calls in Central North Carolina in the month of June. 
May 26, 2020
The English peas are finished. Given the long spell of mild weather we’ve enjoyed this year, I’d hoped this cool-weather crop might last a bit longer. Alas, they still flamed out in a matter of weeks. English peas (Pisum sativum) are the very essence of a Piedmont spring – sweet and tender and all too fleeting.
May 26, 2020
Income is a major component of wealth, but the relationship between income and wealth is complex. Wealth and income are both used to measure a family’s economic situation, but they tell us different things about the health and strength of economic well-being. 
May 20, 2020
Places like Shelby’s Don Gibson Theater, the El Dorado Outpost outdoor retailer in the Uwharries and The Twilight Bark pet supply company in Troy were built on grit, luck and the surety that there would be demand for something other than the offerings at chain stores and strip malls. But for those counting on place-based, experiential strategies to drive their revivals, the key question is: Will that be enough?
May 19, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has generated a flood of data, maps and other resources to track the spread — and places to get help — throughout the region. Many of these resources are scattered across different websites and dashboards. Here’s a brief summary of what’s available, collected in one place. We will update this list as the pandemic goes on.
May 18, 2020
When the coronavirus pandemic hit in the middle of the spring semester, it added a whole new layer of significance to the assignments in Assistant Professor of Architectural History Lidia Klein’s spring seminar. The curriculum for the graduate course, Architecture and Production: from Assembly Line to 3-D Printing, challenged students to investigate “changes in methods of architectural production from the 19th century to the present,” placing those changes “within social, political, cultural, and economic contexts.” 
May 18, 2020
Home ownership is one of the key strategies to close the racial wealth gap. A home is where households see gains in equity (market value of home minus any liens attached to property)  and is typically the largest asset Americans hold, regardless of race or ethnicity.  But Black and Latinx households have considerably less equity in their homes than White and Asian households. As Richard Rothstein says in The Color of Law, “A home is one of the only assets where the race of the owner affects the rate of return.”
May 13, 2020
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, news headlines have called attention to both “essential workers” in the food system, such as farmworkers and grocery store employees, and extensive job losses for food system workers, primarily in retail and restaurants. There are requests for contributions to virtual tip jars and for customers to buy gift cards from small businesses alongside fears of food chain disruptions, empty grocery shelves, and virus exposure while shopping. All of this highlights the often invisible precarity of essential workers in the US food system — and the precariousness of the food system itself.
May 13, 2020
Projects that usually take years are happening in weeks during the coronavirus pandemic: Cities are closing streets to cars, opening public space for sidewalk cafes and investing more in pop-up parks and outdoor amenities.  Planners are responding to a desperate desire for more public, outdoor space, as restaurants, gyms, bars, concert venues, offices, schools and other indoor gathering places remain closed or severely restricted. In Charlotte, city officials have closed about two miles of streets near parks to through traffic, in order to give people more room that’s usually been reserved for cars.  The question, though, as restrictions begin lifting and people crave a return to some kind of normalcy, is whether such changes represent a permanent shift or a fleeting blip in our car-centric culture.
May 12, 2020
Wealth is more than money. While simply defined as the net amount of assets over liabilities, wealth functions in more expansive ways. It opens doors to homeownership, no-debt or low-debt education, business ownership, and the ability to weather personal and national emergencies.  These opportunities and the racial wealth gap that locks some groups out — White households in the United States have 10 times the wealth of Black households and 7 times the wealth of Latinx households — have historical policy roots.
May 12, 2020
The heightened attention to COVID-19 aftershocks has not  distracted  local planners from tackling related issues that beg for solutions. High among these is overcoming Charlotte's long-standing love affair with the car — especially reliance on driving alone, even when carpooling, light rail, cycling or other options are readily available. Charlotte Department of Transportation Deputy Director Ed McKinney brought this to the attention of City Council’s Transportation, Planning and Environment Committee at its January meeting.
May 11, 2020
The novel coronavirus, better known as COVID-19, has changed the world as we know it. This holds true for the field of education, particularly K-12 schools in North Carolina and across the U.S. COVID-19 has exposed some glaring educational inequities that were present before the pandemic, but in many ways have been amplified during this crisis. As a result, I provide four major educational inequities that have directly impacted the most vulnerable K-12 students’ ability to learn and reach various educational academic achievement metrics.
May 06, 2020
In the United States, White households have 10 times the wealth of Black households and 7 times the wealth of Latinx households.This has not occurred by mere happenstance. Wealth is built through a combination of pathways, each with its own history of policy and practice.  The consequences enhance or hinder asset building across racial and ethnic groups. The systemic patterns of racial inequity that lead to such stark differences in wealth accumulation are the same well-worn paths that lead to unequal outcomes in labor, housing, education, and health.
May 05, 2020
On one recent hike, I saw a fantastic bird up close that I’d not seen in person before – the red-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus). These birds typically prefer to stay near the tops of trees, so spotting them is not easy. I was fortunate that these birds were using my friend’s bird feeder, dining on birdseed and sunflower seeds. I was able to get some good photographs of them with my camera with the 40x optical zoom. I tried with my phone but was not able to get anywhere near them, as they are pretty skittish.
May 04, 2020
Who used to live in your house? When was your neighborhood built? Was your subdivision legally segregated? How’d your street get its name?
Apr 27, 2020
Across the Charlotte region, parks have been full and streets largely empty for the past several weeks, as people try to get out of their houses for fresh air and exercise while staying home from work and school. Other cities have been opening vast stretches of their streets to walkers, joggers, bicyclists and others seeking outdoor space while following social distance guidelines. The logic is simple: Auto traffic has plunged to levels no one could imagine two months ago, while millions of people need more places to be outside than often-inadequate parks. 
Apr 23, 2020
More than a month into local stay-at-home orders and the shutdown of large parts of Charlotte’s economy, one area is clearly feeling the impact: public transit.  As might be expected, ridership numbers have plummeted, both as a result of workers staying  home and the Charlotte Area Transit System reducing hours. 
Apr 21, 2020
Encouraging people to stay home, avoid non-essential outings is the main strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, for those facing family violence, home can be anything but safe.  Advocates across the country are concerned about an increase in domestic violence and child abuse incidents, with schools closed and  families stuck at home.
Apr 21, 2020
Monday night’s rezoning meeting felt like most Charlotte City Council sessions from previous years, despite the mayor and staff sitting six feet apart and developers battling audio and video glitches in the remote setup.  But even though developers are moving forward with most of their previously announced plans and cranes are still filling in the blank spaces on our city’s skyline with new towers, questions are swirling about what the era of COVID-19 means for the much-touted urban revival. 
Apr 15, 2020
Since the coronavirus lockdowns began, Mecklenburg’s resource helpline has seen housing assistance requests jump 219% and food assistance jump 747%. These numbers are an indication of the dramatic impacts we’re seeing unfold on Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s economy. 
Apr 15, 2020
There will certainly be scores of studies and articles for years to come about lessons for public administrators from how our multiple levels and units of government managed the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. An important place to start is asking the right set of questions.
Apr 14, 2020
Sitting in a gas station turned into a café and coffee shop along Rozzelles Ferry Road in Charlotte’s Historic West End, J’Tanya Adams, a longtime community activist, spotted a commercial real estate broker who has been working with developers interested in building new homes in the area. The conversation was brief, but packed with news. Adams is founder and program director of  Historic West End Partners, a non-profit which largely promotes economic growth and revitalization. She swapped information with Forde Britt about a potential dog grooming shop and other businesses for several nearby empty buildings along the  street. Such interactions are happening more often in the Historic West End as the historically African American community on the outskirts of uptown Charlotte braces for an anticipated spike in growth and development.
Apr 14, 2020
The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the city of Charlotte are collecting stories to learn what you and your neighbors are seeing and to celebrate the efforts underway by people pulling together that are getting us through this unprecedented time. 
Apr 14, 2020
This is the age of the “metropolitan revolution” in the U.S.: the city as the crucible of change in the wake of waning effectiveness at the national level. Or so say some, like former Chicao mayor Rahm Emanual, whose book “The Nation City” came out in February.  That the triumph of the city could now seem almost blasé to urbanists makes it all the more provocative to regionalists and rural advocates. We asked former UNC Charlotte Urban Institute Senior Fellow Brian Dabson, a nationally recognized expert on regional development and resilience, to give us his take on the new book. Below he shares why he thinks cities (still) need their regions, whether the urban-rural divide narrative will wither away in 2020, and how this new era of pandemic risk might foster more regionally-minded thinking in the future.
Apr 09, 2020
As unemployment rises and schools remain closed, the coronavirus crisis is highlighting some of the many inequalities in the Charlotte region.  Those problems go beyond the ones we’re familiar with, such as income inequality and patterns of segregation. They point to deeply embedded inequalities in how we’ve built our city and our region, as well as access to key infrastructure. 
Apr 08, 2020
As much of our work, learning and lives move online following the stay-in-place policies to control the coronavirus pandemic, the inequity of the digital divide for low-income and rural households here and around the country is now more visible.  Like most states in the country, North Carolina has poor broadband (or high-speed internet) outside of most cities and towns. Almost all 100 counties in the state include rural areas with little or no broadband
Apr 06, 2020
Mecklenburg County leaders are trying to find solutions for a worsening food crisis in the county’s poorest neighborhoods. Nearly 15 percent of the county’s population lives in what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls food deserts — low-income communities where most residents don’t have access to a full-service grocery store or supermarket carrying nutritious food. That figure exceeds the national average of 11 percent and North Carolina’s statewide average of 13 percent.
Mar 30, 2020
Closed bars, restaurants and breweries. Hundreds of thousands of employees working from home while trying to home-school children. Near-empty road and no toilet paper on the shelves.  The immediate impacts from the coronavirus crisis are highly visible. But the virus could have more long-lasting and farther-reaching impacts beyond the immediate unemployment and economic disruption we’re seeing. Here are five other areas the coronavirus could have an impact on our region.
Mar 30, 2020
After weighing the pros and cons of taking groceries to elderly parents; after assessing the risk of exposing them to coronavirus while driving them to the doctor; after worrying about friends who are sick in New York City, those who are considered essential workers and those who are now unemployed; after obsessively wiping surfaces with bleach solution and slathering hands with sanitizer; after years of developing virtual networks only to be unnerved by social distancing, I find moments of respite while pulling winter weeds. 
Mar 30, 2020
The coronavirus crisis is growing across North Carolina, with a statewide stay-at-home order going into effect Monday, but the effects could be felt differently from place to place. 
Mar 24, 2020
Mecklenburg County residents are directed to stay at home through a new proclamation Tuesday, in order to limit their social contacts and slow the spread of coronavirus. But some residents could find that harder to do: The rate of crowded housing varies widely across the city of Charlotte and the rest of the county. 
Mar 23, 2020
The 2020 Census is crucial for making policy, assigning Congressional seats and divvying up resources for the decade to come, but it’s one of the many institutions facing a big challenge from the coronavirus. Census response forms were sent nationwide last week, inviting people to respond online. People who respond online, over the phone or via mail  won’t get a knock on their door from a Census worker — an especially important consideration in a time of pandemic.
Mar 20, 2020
Charlotte is home to the world’s sixth-busiest airport by takeoffs and landings, and Charlotte Douglas International is often cited as the region’s most important economic asset. That’s why the airline industry’s sudden existential crisis could be especially consequential for the region.  Because of the coronavirus crisis, American Airlines and other carriers are struggling with the twin blow of a massive dropoff in customer demand and radically tightened restrictions on where they can fly.
Mar 19, 2020
Restaurant workers are grappling with the industry’s near shutdown in North Carolina due to coronavirus. Another category of workers being hit hard is those employed by the retail sector. The closures have come swiftly over the past week, engulfing an ever-widening swath of stores locally:...
Mar 17, 2020
“For the health and well-being of our community, the University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging social distancing and the postponement of large community gatherings as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Angelique Gaines, a social research specialist at the Urban Institute who spearheads the program. “In adherence to this guidance, City Walks will be postponing its month of walking, biking and munching tours in May. These events will now be planned for the fall. Thank you for your understanding during this time.”
Mar 02, 2020
Ads have been running for months, streets are blanketed with yard signs and North Carolinians have cast early ballots, but with Super Tuesday this week, the presidential election officially kicks into high gear locally.  But how many of us will actually turn out to vote? It turns out that the answer depends a lot on where you live. Like patterns of race, income, education and even average lifespan in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, you can see clear geographical differences. 
Mar 02, 2020
Nothing speaks of the winter sky quite like a flock of blackbirds flying in unison above a sprawling pasture, field or marsh.  They spiral and bank and funnel, breathing life into a void of leaden gray. It’s a spectacle you won’t observe in any other season.  In the Piedmont, these flocks are often composed of an assortment of common species, not all of which are native or even considered true blackbirds: starlings, robins, brown-headed cowbirds, common grackles and red-winged blackbirds. Sometimes the rusty blackbird, an erratic winter visitor in our region, joins them. In other times of the year – when these very same birds are establishing territory, breeding and raising their young – they tend to be more solitary and competitive, and nest in pairs or loose groups. When winter comes along, they become more cooperative and sociable. 
Feb 24, 2020
There’s a growing consensus that if we want to get out of the housing affordability mess we’re in, we need to hear a lot more swinging hammers. Policymakers, developers and housing advocates are all talking about the need to build more, and more of everything: single-family houses, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, townhouses and apartments. It’s fast become the conventional wisdom that we need to lower regulatory barriers, streamline the development process and unleash the power of the market on our housing problems by allowing as much density as possible.
Feb 24, 2020
Leaders from across the region gathered Monday in a conference room at Charlotte Douglas International Airport with an ambitious goal: Creating a comprehensive plan for public transit, covering a dozen counties and setting the transit agenda for decades.  Called CONNECT Beyond, the 18-month planning effort by the Centralina Council of Governments is, to put it simply, big. The planning area covers 12 counties, in two states, with 17 different transit systems. Previous transit planning efforts have been focused mostly on one county at a time. The goal here is to come up with a plan to coordinate and prioritize projects, as well as funding requests, across the whole region.  “Twenty years from now, I think everyone is going to look back on this as the jumping-off point,” said John Muth, the Charlotte Area Transit System’s chief development officer. 
Feb 11, 2020
It’s all around us, but we usually can’t smell or see air pollution. A major art piece and a series of events coming to Charlotte this spring could help change that.
Feb 10, 2020
In his recent book, Trains, Buses, People – An Opinionated Atlas of US Transit, Christof Spieler dispenses a refreshly forthright  assessment of 47 of America’s larger systems, including Miami, Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Dallas and other Sun Belt cities. Never before has a publication compared this many cities and transit modes for a mainstream audience. Research included photographs at all locations and interviews with agency staff, elected officials, and advocates. The final product is compressed into a digestible format of full-page maps, abundant infographics and the author’s informed commentary.  Spieler’s opinions derive from several complex factors: political dynamics, funding challenges, planning dilemmas, land use constraints, ridership fluctuations, and conceptual biases all come into play.  He reveals a few winners, but also a lot of losers. Charlotte hovers precariously in between.
Feb 03, 2020
The skyline changes every year in a fast-growing city like Charlotte, as parking lots morph into high-rises and humble houses or older building are demolished to make way for the next big thing. It can be tough to keep track of the changes, and even harder to visualize what a proposed development might look like once it’s actually built. A new tool the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department is planning to adopt soon could make that easier.
Jan 21, 2020
Air pollution, runoff and sediment in our waterways, disappearing open space and development chipping away at our tree canopy: Charlotte’s facing many environmental challenges with one common cause. Growth. 
Jan 16, 2020
Charlotte faces a wide range of needs, from affordable housing to more police, bigger parks and better transit, but they all share a similar root cause: growth.  That was one of the main themes at City Council’s annual planning retreat, held this week over four days in Durham at the Washington Duke Inn. There was little anxiety about when the city’s boom might end. Instead, the focus was on ways to manage, change and deal with the side effects of a booming city.  “We’re growing faster than we’re putting in that critical infrastructure around it, and people are feeling the pain,,” said council member Tariq Bokhari. 
Jan 15, 2020
There’s been a lot of planning lately for Charlotte’s growing transit system, with new rail lines, improved bus service and the first inter-county transit links in the works — as well as questions about how to pay for that growth But one Charlotte City Council member raised a different idea this week at the group’s annual retreat: How about getting rid of fares altogether?
Jan 14, 2020
The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute is hiring an Associate Director of Research who will also serve as the Director of Community Research Services.
Jan 08, 2020
A new, mixed-income housing development is set to take the place of a long-troubled, low-income housing complex in South End.  Brookhill Village is a paradox: An oasis of affordability in the midst of a booming and fast-gentrifying part of the city, but full of run-down units, many of them boarded up and visibly decaying from the street. Developed in the 1950s by the late C.D. Spangler, a wealthy Charlotte businessman, the complex of one-story buildings occupies 36 acres. Less than two miles away, uptown’s skyline glitters on the horizon.
Jan 08, 2020
Charlotte has a lot of ambitious, master-planned efforts underway right now, but it is the more spontaneous, less-planned areas that have seen truly explosive growth. Consider six areas: Brooklyn Village, Eastland Mall, North Tryon, South End, NoDa and Stonewall Street.
Jan 06, 2020
The Walters-brand piano held a commanding spot for decades in Sue and Dale Riley’s den, on Charlotte’s Wonderwood Drive. They bought it for $75, used, for their daughter Megan to learn on when she was 4 or 5 (she’s 47 now). Even when she was grown and came home on weekends or holidays, the piano, ever in need of tuning, came alive again. Until recently. One bright afternoon on my daily walk, I found the aging upright kicked to the curb.
Jan 06, 2020
HunterWood is fast approaching a tipping point, as new houses replace old. A quick walk around the neighborhood found 76 old houses (built before 2007) and 50 post-2007 houses. On my walk, I found long-time neighbor Jane Stout walking her dog. “The neighborhood is simply recycling. I get it. That happens,” she said. “I just wish the builders could be more sensitive to the surroundings. They seem to be so callous to what a lot of us like about the neighborhood.”