Charlotte To Host National Smart Growth Conference

The Charlotte region will be in the national spotlight when the New Partners for Smart Growth conference comes to town February 3-5.  Planners, architects, engineers, developers and environmentalists from across the country will converge on Charlotte for this 10th annual conference organized by the Local Government Commission.  Sponsors for the event range from federal agencies and national associations (such as the US EPA, the Association of Realtors and the American Planning Association) to state and local organizations (including UNC Charlotte.) 

The conference features over 100 sessions covering a wide range of smart growth and sustainability topics presented by national and regional experts.  In the midst of economic recovery, this year’s conference will identify innovative ways to finance smart growth, explore creative techniques for reducing infrastructure and service costs, and provide concrete ideas for employing smart growth as a tool for community economic vitality. (For conference details, click here.)  Among the conference’s plenary and concurrent sessions are over two dozen featuring speakers from the region and the two states. 

But the region will really be showcased in the local and regional tours allowing participants to see first-hand why we are sometimes called a national laboratory for smart growth.  Tours include:

  • A downtown Charlotte “Walk Audit” with walkability guru Dan Burden, including interactive exploration of streetscapes, urban development, urban infill, public space, parking and traffic management principles and practices;
  • The historic West End, home to J. C. Smith University and traditionally African-American neighborhoods, focusing on how the West End Land Use and Pedscape Plan recognizes the area’s historic relevance while providing design guidelines, conceptual plans and useful graphics for infill development and institutional and business growth;
  • Charlotte’s HOPE VI projects, transforming lives and neighborhoods (First Ward/Earle Village, Arbor Glenn/Dalton Village, Seigle Point/Piedmont Courts, The Park at Oaklawn/Fairview Homes);
  • The Lynx light rail line as a redevelopment tool in Charlotte’s South Boulevard corridor;
  • The Charlotte “Complete Streets” experience, a bus tour of uptown Charlotte and surrounding neighborhoods highlighting implementation of the Center City Transportation Plan (2006), Urban Street Design guidelines and the Transportation Action Plan;
  • The Little Sugar Creek Greenway as part of the regional Carolina Thread Trail, restoring the creek’s natural function, providing access via multi-use trails, and establishing a destination to catalyze investment in diverse urban and suburban neighborhoods;
  • Central Avenue’s multi-cultural melting pot, with an organic urbanity that mirrors smart growth practices and is being fostered by “Intersection Placemaking”, inspiring community-based action and private-public investments;
  • Charlotte’s in-town mixed use centers – the Metropolitan, Elizabeth Avenue’s streetcar-scape, and East Boulevard’s renovation as a neighborhood “main street”;
  • The three north Mecklenburg towns of Huntersville, Cornelius, and Davidson as a national laboratory for what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating a better built environment with form-based codes;
  • Livability in Davidson ( the EPA’s Smart Growth award-winner in 2004,) highlighting  the "Circles at 30" mixed-use district near Interstate 77, a vibrant commercial district complete with two roundabouts that very successfully and quickly move traffic off the freeway and into a walkable, high-quality architectural townscape;
  • Bicycling tours focusing on bicycle facilities and engineering for safer road-sharing.

Stepping out of the region, Asheville and Greenville, SC are separate tour destinations in the conference.  Both are examples of downtown revivals with real character and charm. 

How will the Charlotte region measure up?  Watch this space for an update on conference reaction.

--Vicki Bott

--John Chesser

Top photograph and Davidson photo by Nancy Pierce, other photo by John Chesser