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.

Charlotte’s Growth

If you’ve visited Charlotte lately then you may have noticed that we’re a growing community. In fact, we’re projected to grow by about 400,000 people by 2045. To better understand who’s moving here and what’s attracting them we posted two surveys, Charlotte’s Growth & Charlotte’s Millennials (still available here).  Participants had the following to say:

  • We’re a community of transplants: Nearly half of our residents are relatively new to the area (46% of respondents have lived in Charlotte for less than 5 years).
  • The economy is Charlotte’s biggest attraction: 68% of respondents moved to Charlotte because of a job either for themselves or their spouse.
  • Charlotte should attract more high-tech jobs:  There are a number of ways to become a more competitive city. 47% of respondents said Charlotte needs to attract more high-tech jobs to the existing employment landscape. Also, to attract a broad range of companies and industries, Charlotte should continue to focus on quality-of-life investments such as open space, public transit, and overall walkability.
  • Charlotteans want a range of choices for housing, transportation, education, and employment: 83% of respondents ranked a “range of choices” as the most important element of our city’s vision statement. “A thriving natural environment” and “safe and attractive neighborhoods” were the second and third most important elements of the vision statement.

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.


2016 Community Workshops

Thanks to the 159 people that attended the Community Workshops held across the city Nov. 29 – Dec. 15, 2016. These workshops started some important conversations between City staff and the community (click and zoom in on graphic below). Housing was a popular conversation topic, ranging from housing affordability to housing design in both historic districts and newly developing areas.

People shared their favorite places in a variety of formats including paper surveys at meetings and online via our “Meeting in a Box”. This includes an interactive map where you can Share Your Favorite Place.


Planning for 400,000 new neighbors

If you’re a Charlotte resident today, you may have over 400,000 new neighbors by 2045, so what does that mean for our city?

That’s one question that will start many conversations about our city’s future.  Today, we’re a city of over 800,000 people and we’re a popular place – we add 44 people every day!  More than half of these people are coming here from other places, the rest are a result of natural increase (births – deaths = population increase) That’s like a CATS bus full of passengers arriving every day, every year for the next 30 years, or like the cities of Sacramento, CA or Kansas City, MO moving here in the same time period.

By 2045, our city will likely have over 1 million people, so it’s really important to have conversations today to plan for tomorrow.

If our population increases 58% by 2045 and we want to maintain our current population density, that means we would have to add 210 square miles of land to our city – a land area the size of Columbus, Ohio.  Since we can’t make new land, that means our city is going to become denser, growing “up” rather than “out”.  And assuming current travel patterns, this same population increase could put an additional 101,000 cars on the road – that’s the same amount of daily traffic that passes by Bank of America Stadium on I-277.

With these scenarios in mind, planning for the future allows us to consider alternative scenarios for guiding our City’s growth and development.

Density, Diversity, and Design in the Future

Talking about the future often starts with talking about the past – did you know Charlotte had a greater population density in 1950 than we do today? The City of Charlotte’s planning area grew from 30 square miles in 1950 to 376 square miles today and that’s about as big as it will ever be.  In 1950, the city was 72% white and 38% black with an average household size of 3.4 people.

In 2015, the city was 50% white, 35% black, 14% Hispanic, 6% Asian, and 2% two or more races with an average household size of 2.5 people.  In the future, Charlotte will have more people and more kinds of people with diverse needs for housing, transportation, and employment, so density and diversity will influence our city’s design.

Charlotte’s population density (left) and Charlotte’s planning area (right)

Tools for Designing Our Future

Since Charlotte’s population will be more dense and diverse in the future, what are some tools for designing our City?  Land use policies and development rules are two big factors affecting our City’s future growth and development and that’s why they’re being updated as follows:

Charlotte Place Types: Updated Land Use Policies

Place Types are a classification of land that provides guidance for how future development should look and function. They describe types and intensities of land use as well as important characteristics such as scale, site design, and accessibility.

Unified Development Ordinance (UDO): Updated Development Regulations

The UDO will be the primary tool to implement Place Types and Charlotte’s other plans and policies through development regulations. It will combine multiple development ordinances, including the Zoning Ordinance, into one set of regulations.

Help Think Our City Forward

As our City approaches the 2040s with over a million people, we’ll need to grow differently than we did in the past and Place Types and the UDO present opportunities to consider creative options for future growth.  These policies and rules will shape every aspect of our city, so join the conversation in Thinking Our City Forward.

West Charlotte meeting focuses on affordable housing choices

West Charlotte residents asked about the intersection of affordable housing and growth/development regulations at a July 19 meeting held at the Dr. John T. Crawford Renaissance Center in the westside neighborhood of Renaissance West.

Ed McKinney (right), Interim Planning Director, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department, fields questions on the intersection between affordable housing and land use policy and regulations.

Members of the West Side Community Land Trust learned about Charlotte Place Types, land use and urban design policies that will guide the creation of a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). The UDO will contain zoning and other development-related regulations covering areas such as stormwater, trees, and streets/sidewalks.

The discussion focused on gentrification and affordable housing, including what tools the City can use to support affordable housing and protect the character of Charlotte’s westside neighborhoods.  The issue is likely to be one of a handful of priorities the UDO can focus on in the short-term.

South Charlotte learns about “software” for future growth

South Charlotte residents learned about a citywide effort to update our “software” for future growth and development, Charlotte Place Types and UDO, at a July 13 meeting at the Ballantyne Hotel.

Ed McKinney, Interim Planning Director, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Dept., describes the difference between Charlotte Place Types (policies) and the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO, regulations) at The Ballantyne Hotel.

The Ballantyne Breakfast Club hosted an evening meeting to update the community about Charlotte Place Types and the creation of a Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).  Interim Planning Director Ed McKinney noted that this is one effort with two parts, noting “Place Types will provide the vision that guides development of regulations in the UDO.”

Tony Lathrop (left), Chairperson of the project’s Charlotte UDO Advisory Committee,
speaks about the committee’s role in building the community’s awareness of Charlotte Place Types and the UDO.

The City of Charlotte expects to add another 400,000 people by 2040, so the time is now for having a community discussion and creating a plan to ensure our growth and development benefit all parts of the city.  Planning for growth and development in South Charlotte is a top community concern.

Community leaders learn about Charlotte Place Types/UDO

How can the city incorporate more green/sustainable building standards? How can we protect more of our historic buildings?

Members of the City’s new Civic Leadership Academy (CLA) asked these questions during an April 1, 2017 meeting with planning staff on Charlotte Place Types/UDO.  The CLA is a free 8-week course specifically designed for Charlotteans who are ready to take the next step in being community leaders and improving the quality of life in all of Charlotte’s neighborhoods.

As a general planning principle, the “greenest” buildings are often ones that are already built, especially historic buildings. Sustainable design in new construction is important, but the embodied energy (materials/energy used to make bricks, glass, steel, etc.) in existing buildings makes them “Super Sustainable”.  Planning staff also noted that Historic Landmarks (Mecklenburg County designation for individual buildings) and Historic Districts (City of Charlotte zoning districts for neighborhoods) both need high levels of commitment from property owners.

Among the audience of 30 people, greenways were another topic that came up as Planning staff shared Here’s What We Heard from meetings in Nov.-Dec. 2016.  Our conversation with CLA members was part of a multi-week series, but we’re glad to meet groups as needed.  If your organization’s interested in learning more about Charlotte Place Types/UDO, check out Request A Meeting under Get Involved on our home page.

NoDa ponders past, future with Charlotte Place Types/UDO

How can we better engage renters? How can we keep our existing business district buildings?

These were a couple of questions raised by members of the North Davidson (NoDa) Neighborhood & Business Association at a March 21, 2017 meeting with planning staff to learn more about Charlotte Place Types and the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).

Seven NoDa neighbors noted that they’re trying to balance the neighborhood’s mill village past, notably in architectural character within the neighborhood’s residential interior.  A few common elements of the neighborhood’s residential character include:  deep eaves, front porches, large windows, and wood frame construction.

Planning staff noted that as part of the upcoming UDO, infill development and change in older neighborhoods will definitely be a conversation topic.  Planning staff also noted that tools ranging from historic districts to neighborhood conservation overlay districts (NCOD) are potential tools for addressing concerns about context-sensitive development.

NoDa neighbors also indicated interests in using adaptive reuse to preserve older buildings along North Davidson Street and 36th Street, NoDa’s business district. Given the neighborhood’s popularity, NoDa neighbors are also keen to engage renters as new apartment buildings develop in the neighborhood.

NoDa neighbors were also curious about planning/zoning tools that affect housing affordability, which is a conversation topic in many in-town neighborhoods.  Planning staff noted that the ease or burden of creating housing supply is influenced by planning/zoning, and will be part of a larger community conversation in creating the UDO.

Our conversation with NoDa neighbors was around the table at local restaurant, so we’re glad to meet people in a range of settings.  If your organization’s interested in learning more about Charlotte Place Types/UDO, check out Request A Meeting under Get Involved on our home page.