Thursday, March 18, 2010

Charlotte, NC

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I stopped in Charlotte, North Carolina to see what the buzz is about. Charlotte is beautiful by my perception of today’s standards for urban areas. It has wide tree-lined streets, plentiful public art, water features, amenities (e.g., a downtown stadium, a performing arts center, a design museum). It also has a light rail system with futuristic cars that has a modern trestle just on the border of the downtown core. It has some very nice architecture. So what’s not to like? Well, there are several things. The first is that the city looks like it sprung whole in the 1990s and early 21st century. The downtown has very few old buildings. In 25 years, I think we might think of Charlotte as a museum to this time period. Most of the retail is inward, that it, it is in enclosed malls strung between buildings. My guess is that the retail is designed mostly to support the lunch-time crowd. There are no department stores that I found. This is not the kind of retail that draws people for a day of shopping. In fact, it is so well hidden that many suburbanites might not know that it is even there. There are many residential developments that border on the downtown that have the same 1990’s architecture as many of the main office buildings. Many of the skyscrapers are quite beautiful, but there are several that are exceedingly ugly, which is true in most cities. There is construction still going on, but several buildings have only their shells and no further work is being done on them. Charlotte is a monument to the boom years, and the bust years.

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