From her porch in booming Fort Mill, S.C., Barbara Mackey can point out three houses where neighbors who love her live. One takes her to church every Sunday morning. Another trims her hedges and mows her grass. A third chauffeurs her around town whenever she needs to run errands.
“Here, everybody knows everybody,” says Mackey, 77.
Since she was 14, Mackey’s lived here in Paradise, a historic, predominantly black neighborhood just outside downtown Fort Mill off busy S.C. 160. Comprised of streets named after prominent African Americans, Paradise seems like its own island in this bustling Charlotte suburb.
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.
The narrative around rural areas has often held that people need to leave for a better chance to find success, typically in the city. But for many, leaving the place they love and call home never really feels like an option.
Here are seven stories of people who are turning that narrative on its head.
Natural aesthetic appeal, increased economic vitality, a reason to leave your car behind, a walking and biking connection between communities in two states: Organizers hope to deliver all of that, and more, through the growing Carolina Thread Trail network of greenways, waterways and trails.
With the textile industry in steep decline and Forbes magazine ranking Shelby among America’s most vulnerable cities, a task force set out to see what other towns and cities in similar distress had done to pump energy into their downtowns and draw out-of-towners.
They landed on an idea to fully embrace Cleveland County’s musical legacy and celebrate the global fame of two native sons.
Charitable giving is an invisible thread binding people and communities together across the 32-county Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection study region — but how much people give, and what resources are available, varies from place to place.
New data on the Quality of Life Explorer mapping tool paint a picture of how demographics are changing across Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, as well as other measures such as bicycle friendliness, voter participation and average water consumption.
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are still facing a large gap between the supply of affordable housing and the number of residents who need it, as inreasing rents and a tight housing market are squeezing more families’ budgets and putting them at risk of housing instability, evicion and homelessness.
The UNC Charlotte Public Policy Program, in Partnership with Gerald G. Fox Masters of Public Administration Program and the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, will hold its 2nd annual Talking Policy in the Queen City event on October 2nd from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Center City campus.
Today it’s hard for many, especially newcomers, to imagine Charlotte’s interdependency with the small towns and rural communities surrounding Mecklenburg County. But Charlotte’s emergence as a New South city was the result of a manufacturing economy established throughout the region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. That economy was mostly built on textiles, with its concentration not in the urban core (as was the case with Pittsburgh’s steel industry or Detroit’s auto sector), but in small towns scattered throughout the Carolina Piedmont – where brick textile mills were built along the banks of the South Fork River in Gaston County and the Great Falls of the Catawba in South Carolina, and along the rail lines that stretched in every direction to places like Kannapolis and Hamlet.
Ronald Rael gained national attention this summer for installing teeter-totters through the U.S.-Mexico border fence, allowing children on either side to play, but the architect and designer has been studying borders, walls and their meaning for much longer.
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.
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?
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.
Sharp differences in race and income are visible on a map of Mecklenburg County, generally in the familiar “crescent and wedge” pattern many Charlotteans are familiar with.
But differences are also available in other, more unexpected dimensions as well. These five maps illustrate some of the biggest disparities: In people’s health.
According to local Point-in-Time Count data, 77 percent of people experiencing homelessness in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Continuum of Care are black. American Community Survey data indicates that only 31 percent of the general population in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is black. This is just one of the major disparities in our local housing and homelessness statistics highlighed by a new tool.
Sometimes it can feel like the world is drowning in data: Big data, data mining, data science, data analytics and other buzzwords have become so familiar as to be cliches.
But the meeting last week of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, held in Milwaukee, was also full of reminders about the power of data to tell stories and inform decision-making.
It’s happening across Charlotte: Apartments, office buildings and restaurants are popping up in parking lots, as dense, mixed-use developments, connected by bicycle paths and walking trails, invade suburbia. What’s driving the shift at some of the city’s most iconic suburban centers?
Tens of thousands of people a year are evicted in Mecklenburg County, but the full impact is often hard to see. Court data on evictions is often incomplete, accessible only in paper files, or difficult to compile and access. Demographic data on who is evicted, and for what reasons, is not comprehensively collected. A 2017 project by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Mecklenburg County sought to change that.
A UNC Charlotte professor used the integrated data system at the Institute for Social Capital, a part of the Urban Institute, to examine whether students of color are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system because they’re more disengaged from school. Her conclusion: “The way our kids are being processed in the system is affected by the color of their skin.”
Charlotte City Walks 2019 wrapped up after a record-setting year, with 40 walks and more than 600 attendees. The programs explored food, history, art, murals, the lived experiences of being blind or homeless in Charlotte, tree canopy and more.
The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute organized a record number of free walking and biking tours last month that highlighted the diversity of Charlotte neighborhoods. The 40 tours took place in neighborhoods such as University City, NoDa, Uptown, South End, Historic Wilmore, Cherry, Belmont, Plaza Midwood, McCrorey Heights, Biddlesville, Commonwealth-Morningside and Historic Camp Greene.
The Institute for Social Capital combines data from dozens of different agencies and provides a unique way for researchers to find connections and study problems, helping policymakers find solutions that work.
As Charlotte grows denser and more urban, parts of the city built decades ago on an auto-centric, suburban framework are struggling to both absorb more traffic and adapt to new beliefs about how people should get around.
A one-mile stretch of congested road in fast-growing University City illustrates the tensions between balancing the needs of cars and pedestrians, as well as local residents and commuters, in an area where the distinction between urban and suburban is starting to blur.
It’s a familiar story: A new transit line opens, spurring gentrification in nearby neighborhoods and pushing out long-time residents.
But is that always what happens? New research from UNC Charlotte suggests the story is more complicated.
Is Charlotte's arts scene growing? Becoming more diverse? Does the city need a dedicated arts district? Read what some of the city’s key advocates and artists have to say about Charlotte's art community.
As Charlotte has become more urban and cosmopolitan, grassroots artists and organizations have energized the visual and performing arts. But some say there have largely been two separate arts scenes in Charlotte: One shaped by established arts institutions and the other by a more diverse group of artists and arts organizations emerging outside the establishment.
As rapid growth and development reshapes Charlotte's urban personality, the cultural arts scene is expanding and becoming more dynamic, as a number of new festivals and venues show. But arts advocates say funding has stagnated, and more is needed to maintain the growth.
Everyone wants to be included and accounted for. This is no different for our homeless population, a group that often feels overlooked and ignored. Charlotte-Mecklenburg is doing their best to remedy this with their annual Point-In-Time Count.
On February 4, 2019, the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Lake Norman Economic Development Corporation released the 2018 North Mecklenburg Demographic and Housing Assessment. This report presents the findings from a demographics and housing assessment for the northern part of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina (North Mecklenburg).
As the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019, we are reflecting on how our history and growth mirror both the region we focus on and the university that nurtures us.
A major gift to the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute from the institute’s first director, Dr. Norm Schul, and his wife, Marianne ‘73, will establish an annual speaker series focused on policy issues affecting the Charlotte region.
When Mary Newsom retired as the institute’s Director of Urban Policy Initiatives on October 1, not only did the institute lose a trusted and respected colleague of seven years, but the Charlotte region lost one of its most important journalistic voices for quality planning, urban design and the value of public engagement to inform public policy.
In telling the story of one Charlotte family’s struggles with poverty, crime, incarceration and more, the author gives the four W’s: who, what, when and where. But what makes this new book so important is the fifth and most difficult W: Why?
The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and Mecklenburg County Community Support Services released “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Evictions Part 3: One-month Snapshot of Eviction Court Records” on Wednesday, May 23, 2018.
Each year thousands of people in Charlotte lose their homes to eviction. It’s not just a symptom of larger issues – high child care and transportation costs, rising rents and low wages – but can start a cascade of financial woes.