Back to the Future

"Those Who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it," goes the famous line. With Charlotte's growth on hold, it's time to look back at what we did right -- and what we screwed up.


Illustrations by Jennifer Thermes

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In 1989, this city was on the brink of a boom. Uptown's resurgence was barely a glimmer in the eye of bank titans and energy executives. Construction had barely begun on the Bank of America Corporate Center and I-485. City leaders were huddling to plan for the coming growth, growth that would surpass even the most optimistic projections.

Enter Michael Gallis. The erudite architecture professor with the mane of gray hair and flurry of Technicolor maps offered leaders and planners a vision of a future. They could create a thriving, globally recognized city-state, he told them, with Charlotte as the hub and the surrounding towns along its spokes, if they would all work together, as a region. They seized on Gallis's ideas -- simple yet revolutionary at the time -- and it could be argued that no single planner has had more influence over the design of our regional infrastructure system than him.

Gallis has been spreading the religion of regionalism to the rest of the country ever since. After leaving his UNC-Charlotte professorship in 1997, he consulted on projects as an "urban strategist" in a slew of cities, including Detroit, San Diego, Memphis, San Antonio, Cincinnati, and Orlando.'

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