Urban and rural leaders embrace common ground in this program

In telephone calls, emails and chats over coffee or dinner, dozens of business and community leaders in Charlotte and the surrounding suburban and rural communities regularly communicate — sometimes discussing local issues and sometimes not, in conversations that are happening deliberately. For two decades, the non-profit Lee Institute, which promotes civic engagement, has focused on […]

Rendering of "Ballantyne Reimagined," the planned redevelopment of Ballantyne Corporate Park to add shops, restaurants, apartments and amenities to the office park. Rendering: Northwood Office.

From Ballantyne to SouthPark to University City, the suburbs want to be more like the city

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. Within the past month, major plans have been announced for densifying and transforming chunks of Ballantyne, SouthPark and University City – three of the biggest bastions of […]

Confessions from the cul-de-sac

Three months ago my family and I moved into our first home. Something about buying a house makes you feel like a bona fide adult, and with that come adult decisions. When my husband and I were deciding where in the city we wanted to live, like many young families we fell into the trap […]

The bounce is back for Charlotte-area suburban growth

Since the recession ended, there has been a lot of discussion among demographers, pundits and others about Americans moving back to cities. For the first time in years, migration patterns were showing cities growing faster than suburbs. Research was starting to suggest that not all Americans are dreaming of a big house, lawn and an […]

I-77: Expressway to prosperity

The following is an excerpt from Chuck McShane’s new book, A History of Lake Norman: Fish Camps to Ferraris, published by the History Press. “Lake Norman may seem as fixed a part of the hillsides that enfold it,” began the Charlotte Observer editorial on Oct.1, 1977. “But it is a baby, scarcely older than a […]

Can innovative interchange plan survive suburbia?

With the long-delayed final leg of Interstate-485 set to open soon, residents near the new interchange at Prosperity Church Road are bracing for growth. The question is, what will that growth look like? A 15-year-old plan calls for an “urban village” of compact streets and walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. When envisioned in the late 1990s, it […]

Suburbia? It’s all about status, says author Ben Ross

When you hear that a new book “opens my eyes to an entirely new way of thinking,” as “Better! Cities & Towns” editor Rob Steuteville wrote, you may want to pay attention. Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, by Benjamin Ross (Oxford University Press, 2014) has the potential to change the […]

Windy Ridge: A neighborhood built to fail

In Charlotte, one neighborhood more than any other came to represent the housing crisis. Built between 2002 and 2004, the Windy Ridge neighborhood of 133 small, single-family homes fell victim. By 2008, 60 percent of the neighborhood’s homes were in foreclosure. Crime rates rose, property values plummeted and the homeowners association couldn’t afford to keep […]

NCDOT letter poses dilemma for low-tax Union County towns

A North Carolina Department of Transportation letter has planners and officials in several Union County towns scrambling to figure out how they’ll maintain new subdivision streets in what has long been one of the fastest growing counties in the state. The September letter from Division 10 engineer Louis Mitchell said NCDOT would no longer accept […]

What’s in a name? Defining ‘urban’ in the South

It’s a quirky fact about all three of the most recent directors of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute: We all came, not from large urban centers, but from small, rural communities. Jim Clay, director from 1979 to 1984, was from Crum, W.Va. Bill McCoy (director 1985-2001) hailed from Ekron, Ky. And me? My friends are […]