Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sustain Charlotte honors 70 for green-friendly efforts

Sustain Charlotte, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting sustainable social, economic and land use policies, recognized 70 Charlotte area citizens and organizations Tuesday evening for their efforts. 

Eleven winners received the top awards before a crowd of more than 250 at the Third Annual Community Sustainability Awards + Earth Day Celebration at UNC Charlotte's Center City campus uptown. They were recognized for helping to advance ‘Charlotte 2030:  A Sustainable Vision for Our Region, which Sustain Charlotte launched in 2010.

Among the winners:
  • Outstanding Overall Leader,  David Walters, director of UNC Charlotte's Urban Design Program
  • Oustanding Educator, Cindy Moss, director of global STEM initiatives, Discovery Education
  • Transportation, Charlotte Department of Transportation
  • Land Use, Charlotte Center City Partners
  • Energy, N.C. Sustainable Energy Association
  • Waste Reduction, Eaton Corp.
  • Air Quality, Clean Air Carolina
  • Food, Go-Go Fresco
  • Social Equity, MGR Charlotte
  • Water, Charlotte Public Tree Fund
  • Sustainable Economy, PPRE Forevergreen

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Charlotte rising on lists of top cities for millennials, new college grads

If you've been wondering what's up with the surge in apartment complex construction in Charlotte, particularly in and around uptown, a couple of new studies might help explain why developers have pushed apartment-building numbers locally to an all-time high. is out this week with its Top 10 cities for recent college graduates, and Charlotte landed in the No. 2 spot, behind only Denver, Co. The list factored in both affordability of average rents for one-bedroom apartments, plus median income and unemployment rates. It also assessed whether a city had "a vibrant culture catering to active young professionals," according to a press release from the site.

Also out this week is's analysis of best cities and neighborhoods for millennials., which grew out of the college rating site, offers rankings and reviews of neighborhoods, schools and metro areas. Charlotte landed at No. 18 on its analysis of the 25 best cities for millennials. (Raleigh came in at No. 12).

Every time I ask a developer about the risk of an apartment bubble locally, they point to the kind of demographic trends animating both these reports. The young folks are coming in droves, the developers say, and they aren't ready to buy houses.

What do you think? Are enough young adults arriving in Charlotte to support the many new apartments going up around the city?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Report putting Charlotte in top five cities for sprawl a call to action, local groups say

Local groups concerned about suburban sprawl and congestion are taking note of a new report that lists the Charlotte-Gastionia-Rock Hill, S.C. area as the nation's fifth most sprawl-prone large metropolitan area. The report, out this week from Smart Growth America, a national research group fighting for sustainable growth and land-use policies, studied development patterns at 221 metro areas and 994 counties in the U.S. as of 2010.

Among metro areas with more than 1 million people, Charlotte ranked fifth in sprawl among large metro areas and 25th worst overall. Hickory ranked first overall in the study, which factored in residential and employment density, accessibility of the street network, strength of downtowns and activity centers, and the mix of homes, jobs and services in neighborhoods.

Shannon Binns, head of Sustain Charlotte, a group fighting for sustainable land-use and transportation policies locally, said it points out the need for the city to expedite the ongoing review of its zoning codes, which were last overhauled in 1992. The current ordinance is still predicated on suburban-oriented development, at a time when more young adults are preferring to live in high-density, transit-oriented areas such as the South End. The current ordinance "is so convoluted and lengthy," Binns said. "It's kind of like the tax code. It doesn't promote modern thinking about land use and development."

The Centralina Council of Governments, which works with government agencies in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties, also felt the study pointed out the need for thoughtful efforts to guide growth and development. It has been working on a three-year effort called Connect our Future that aims to build a 14-county regional framework for growth. The group has been holding meetings around the region, soliciting input from more than 2,000 people in its first phase alone, and more than 4,000 overall. When asked in one survey to name the transportation feature most important to them, about the same percentage of those responding mentioned having more sidewalks, trails and other safe places to walk (21 percent) as mentioned getting more roads (22 percent).

"What they support is exactly what Smart Growth America and other organizations have indicated is essential for growth that is healthy," said Jim Prosser, Centralina's executive director.

The project expects to publish by year's end a framework designed to give local governments guidance and advice on planning for growth. To give your thoughts, visit