Thursday, November 21, 2013

Is a Charlotte-Triad-Triangle 'Megalopolis' in North Carolina's future?

UNC Chapel Hill researchers are projecting that by 2050, North Carolina could well have its own version of the so-called 'Megalopolis' that is today's Washington-Baltimore-Philadelphia-New York City-Boston corridor. A new study by the Carolina Population Center at UNC suggests that by 2050, the Charlotte-Greensboro-Raleigh corridor will have grown into an urbanized corridor similar to the one comprised by the major metros of the Northeast. (Check out the video simulation below showing what the mapped-out version of the N.C. data looks like over time).

The study uses Census data and demographic analysis to map out the state's housing growth from 1940 to 2050. It puts new statistical context on a dynamic we already know about -- that lots of people and industry are moving to the state. (My story on today's front page reinforces the rising development profile of both Charlotte and Raleigh). But that growth could also pose planning challenges, and the study's authors say it raises questions about the need for new roads, water lines and other infrastructure investments.

“This is one potential look at the future,” said Rebecca Tippett, director of Carolina Demography, the unit at the Carolina Population Center that produced the data. “Where and how development occurs is very responsive to policy and planning, and I hope this sparks conversations about what we might want North Carolina to look like in 2050.”

I found myself trying to imagine what smaller cities like Salisbury and Lexington would look like and feel like if the urban sprawl from Charlotte and Greensboro and Raleigh overtook them. They all have that sleepy small-town feel when you drive through (or more accurately, past) them on Interstate 85. Hard to imagine them as fully urbanized arms of Charlotte and Greenville. But then again, people in Atlanta probably never figured on the Braves moving to Cobb County, either.

Do you think it'll happen? If it does, would a hyper-urbanized Interstate 85 corridor be a good thing for North Carolina? 


Anonymous said...

It depends on what you want for North Carolina.

It's inarguably true that the wealth generators for North Carolina are principally Charlotte and Raleigh. A blog on the N&O today pointed out that just these two metros generate nearly 1/2 of North Carolina's annual economic output.

But the Tom Apodacas of the world bitterly resent the wealth and influence of Charlotte and Raleigh. So they cut off their noses to spite their faces, foolishly believing that somehow destroying North Carolina's cities enables and ennobles our state's small towns and rural areas. Of course, they could not be more incorrect.

I bring up this point because those who currently control the state's government are deeply opposed to urbanization, believing it to be the work of Yankee devils. But money and development will have its way, regardless. So their shortsightedness will doom the state to an ugly kersplotch of ill-planned and ill-managed development, rather than a model for development that will be an asset to North Carolina for generations to come.

The people, the development, the world are all coming to North Carolina anyway.

Much, much better to reach out, embrace it and guide it.

But when your battle cry is "th'cities are gettin' ever'thang!" you are unable to understand, let alone adopt best practices.

Really can't wait for 2014 and 2016 to correct the error on Jones Street.