The City of Charlotte, NC, is working to spur economic development and community reinvestment within five geographic areas with the help of a technical assistance workshop from Smart Growth America.
Property values have increased in many of Charlotte’s neighborhoods over the past decades. However, several areas in Charlotte have lagged behind.
This observation prompted the City to apply for technical assistance from Smart Growth America. In May, our staff visited the city to host a “Planning for Economic and Fiscal Health” workshop. At the workshop, Smart Growth America’s experts and City officials discussed strategies for attaining quality growth throughout Charlotte, and how better development strategies could contribute to the city’s economic competitiveness and stability. Five areas in Charlotte were targeted for city investment including: Whitehall/Ayrsley, Prosperity Village, West Trade/Rozelles Ferry, Sunset/Beattie’s Ford, and Central/Eastland/Albemarle. In their “next steps” memorandum after the workshop, Bill Fulton and Roger Millar of Smart Growth America recommended a number of possible high-impact public investments for each of the five target neighborhoods. Ultimately, the hope is that these types of investments will strengthen the five areas by making them more desirable for commercial and retail markets and middle-income housing.
The City barely skipped a beat in making headway on the action steps provided after the workshop. In June, Charlotte’s City Council approved $120 million in capital funding for the five CNIP areas. Beyond this investment, the City has also made strides on other initiatives that would stand to benefit the target areas.
“It’s very rare that a city has the funding to go with their vision,” said Dan Gallagher, Transportation Planning Manager for the Charlotte Department of Transportation, “so we’re in a really great position to hopefully catalyze on that funding level, as well as capitalize on Charlotte’s projected growth.”
Between $20 and $30 million is slated for each of the five target areas. The funding will become available in 2015 and will come in increments over the next eight years. The City formed an interdepartmental team to examine the target areas and consider both their assets and opportunities, as well as to involve citizens and stakeholders in the planning process. This kind of engagement, along with recommendations from our technical assistance, will help inform how the City invests.
In addition to this capital investment, the City has advanced other initiatives important to the overall vision of quality growth in Charlotte:
- The City Council approved funding for a streetcar system that would connect two of the target areas.
- Instead of building a traditional highway interchange in Prosperity Village, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the City are constructing an interchange that includes a series of two-lane streets that will contribute to more attractive “village-like” development in the area.
- The City is working with the private sector to redevelop the Eastland Mall, a now defunct shopping center, into a mixed-use center.
- The City is reevaluating its current Zoning Ordinance to ensure that it creates new development that supports and advances the City’s growth vision.
Now is certainly an exciting time for Charlotte, and Gallagher is looking ahead to a lot of work between now and when the first capital funding becomes available in 2015. “With the help of Smart Growth America and good planning on our part, and ultimately with the backing of City Council with capital funding for these areas, I think we have a great opportunity to really create some transformative change in these areas.”
Smart Growth America’s technical assistance program, made possible through a five-year Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Sustainable Communities, seeks to develop local planning solutions that help communities grow in ways that benefit families and businesses, while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place. Three other nonprofit organizations—Forterra, Global Green USA and Project for Public Spaces—also received competitively awarded grants under this program to help communities get the kinds of development they want.
As a national leader in the field, Smart Growth America has accumulated extensive experience working with communities to help them use land strategically, make the most of existing resources and invest strategically to catalyze private development.
Click here to learn more about our technical assistance workshops.