2020 Vision Plan thoughts

On the evening of Thursday, November 18, I sat in on the final community workshop for the Center City 2020 Vision Plan. Actually, workshop is a bit of a misnomer; it was really more of a presentation that was open to the general public. Attendees were invited to fill out comment cards at the end of the show.

To be fair, Charlotte Center City Partners, the group that is putting together the 2020 Vision Plan, hosted two intense workshops earlier in the process at which anyone and everyone had a chance to offer input and ideas. There were also working groups and a steering committee. At Thursday’s session, consultant Daniel Iacofano presented a draft of the plan. His presentation, complete with Powerpoint and lasers and 3D modeling and video, took the better part of an hour, and it was impressive. My takeaways:

• I loved that the plan, while it focused on uptown proper, spends considerable energy on connecting and preserving nearby neighborhoods.

• An early slide claimed that China would have more than 200 cities with populations of more than 1 million by 2035. Wow.

• One idea with much promise: partnerships between government institutions, such as libraries, and universities. This could be a good way to address the library funding problem. Why do JWU, UNCC, CPCC all need separate libraries downtown? Also a great way to bring together the student populations. Also mentioned was a common student union downtown.

• I loved the simple idea of the Ward Loop—a walking trail, or linear park, that connects all four wards downtown.

• Daniel mentioned that successful community gardens need only be 100′ X 100′.

• I liked the concept of making Charlotte a city of bikes. Also mentioned here were bike-share and car-share ideas. Daniel mentioned that his twenty-person office in Berkeley has zero parking. Everyone uses transit and/or bikes, and uses a car-share service when they need a car.

• A biggie: Daniel mentioned several key components of furthering a viable, liveable center city–and many of them are at risk in the current budget climate. Among them: expanding transit, strengthening neighborhood community centers, a high school downtown, strong libraries, and building out the Second Ward plan (that would be Daniel Levine’s long-sidelined dream to develop a mixed-use neighborhood in Second Ward).

• The big, bold idea is to cap I-277 to the South and possibly to the north. This is not a new idea. This is not a cheap idea. In the current climate, it is politically untenable. But looking at examples like NYC’s High Line park, Chicago’s Millennium Park (not a cap, but a possible result of one here), as well as the potential development and connectivity that could result, it’s an idea we need to remember.

• The plan mentioned the possibility of using the land to the south of the NASCAR Hall, essentially creating by the rerouting of interchanges, for some sort of amateur sports complex. At least, that’s what I understood. Meh. For a plan that purports to be of the community, by the community, I don’t hear much public demand for that.

• But I do hear a lot of public demand for center city retail.

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