Change in Charlotte’s Neighborhoods

Charlotte’s Neighborhoods & Future Growth

Charlotte is known for a number of things: we’re a banking town (but we are diversifying), we have some great weather (#fourseasons), and we’re a community of neighborhoods.

Charlotte’s neighborhoods vary in terms of character and functionality based, in part, on the era in which they were developed: from the historic neighborhoods in Uptown’s Fourth Ward, to the streetcar suburbs, to the mid- to late- century automobile suburbs (for more details about our neighborhood types check out Charlotte’s Neighborhoods). The various types of neighborhoods offer different lifestyle choices and are adored for a host of reasons.

Charlotte’s Neighborhood Types include: Four Wards (1768 to 1800s), Streetcar Suburbs (1890s to 1930s), 1st Generation Automobile Suburbs (1940s to 1960s), 2nd Generation Automobile Suburbs (1980s to 2000s), and Transit-Oriented Neighborhoods (2007 to Present).

So if neighborhoods are one of the hallmarks of Charlotte what does that mean for their future? As pointed out in last month’s blog post (Planning for 400,000 new neighbors) our community is and will continue to experience a lot of growth, and that growth will inevitably affect all parts of Charlotte, including our treasured neighborhoods.

Growth brings both opportunities and challenges, but if we take a proactive approach we can better ensure that growth serves all neighborhoods and the city at-large very well. To be proactive about addressing the challenges of growth we need to start having some frank conversations about what type of change could be appropriate in our neighborhoods.

Charlotte’s Vision

Charlotte’s vision is a great starting point for any conversation about neighborhood change because vision statements define a course of direction for the future.  (Didn’t know CLT had a vision? Check out the adopted Centers, Corridors and Wedges Growth Framework).

Charlotte’s vision states that we will be a “Livable City for All” with a vibrant economy, thriving natural environment, and diverse population. Charlotteans will enjoy a range of choices for housing, transportation, education, entertainment, and employment. Safe and attractive neighborhoods will continue to be central to the City’s identity and citizen involvement key to its viability.

Charlotte’s vision for the future is to be a “Livable City for All” with a vibrant economy, a thriving natural environment, a diverse population, a range of choices for housing, transportation, education, entertainment and employment, and safe and attractive neighborhoods.

In a recent community poll (Charlotte’s Vision) 83% of respondents ranked a “range of choices” as the most important element of our city’s vision statement. “A thriving natural environment” (49%) and “safe and attractive neighborhoods” (47%) were ranked as the second and third most important elements of the vision statement.

This vision helps define some clear expectations about what type of change is appropriate for our neighborhoods. Future change should help create, support and enhance 1) a range of choices, 2) a thriving natural environment, 3) safe and attractive neighborhoods, 4) a vibrant economy, and 5) a diverse population.

Complete Neighborhoods

So how does our community ensure future growth and change accomplishes the five aspirations outlined in Charlotte’s vision? While there isn’t one simple answer, there are some best planning practices that can help Charlotte address the challenges of growth and take advantage of the opportunities it presents to accomplish our vision of being a “Livable City for All.”

In regards to our neighborhoods, the principle commonly known as “Complete Neighborhoods” (aka 20-minute village) is a best practice that can help Charlotte protect what residents love about their different neighborhoods but also appropriately manage future growth and development. The principle is used nationwide by a number of communities, and Portland defines Complete Neighborhoods as a geography that:

“provides residents safe and convenient access to the goods and services they need on a daily or regular basis. This includes a range of housing options, grocery stores and other neighborhood-serving commercial services, quality public schools, public open spaces, recreational facilities and access to frequent transit. A complete neighborhood also includes an interconnected network of streets, sidewalks and trails that makes walking and bicycling within and to these places safe and relatively easy for people of all ages and abilities.” (My Portland Plan,  

Important to the concept of Complete Neighborhoods is an understanding of what the term ‘neighborhood’ entails. From a planning perspective, neighborhoods are bigger than one subdivision. Place Makers, a national planning and urban design firm, defines neighborhoods as “a physical place – varied in intensity from more rural to more urban – that many different communities inhabit.” In other words, neighborhoods are a broad geography that includes multiple subdivisions and developments.

Neighborhoods are larger than one subdivision and encompass a broad geography. The geography shown here encompasses approximately half a mile and includes a range of land uses and building types.

Charlotte’s Neighborhoods to Complete Neighborhoods

While the majority of people can agree with the values of the Complete Neighborhood principle they also want to know how the application of the idea may or may not directly affect their property. On March 24th, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department will host the What Can UDO SUMMIT. This half-day event will offer a lot of information about the Charlotte Place Types and Unified Development Ordinance project, including a neighborhood focused workshop where stakeholders can discuss how the Complete Neighborhood principle could be applied to our beloved neighborhoods. The neighborhood workshop will invite stakeholders to explore questions such as:

  • What is the right mix of housing types in your neighborhood? What is the best location for different housing types?
  • Do you have sufficient access to goods and services today? What types of goods and services would you like to have better access to in the future?
  • How do you typically travel within and through your neighborhood today? How would you like to travel within and through your neighborhood in the future?

Please save the date and join us on March 24th at UNC Charlotte Center City. The summit is an important step in taking a proactive approach to ensuring future growth serves all neighborhoods well. In the meantime, start thinking about how complete your neighborhood is and take the Complete Neighborhoods survey.