Jan 29, 2016 - Things to Do

4 half-baked ideas to take Charlotte to the next level (part 7)


John Short half-baked-7

Somehow this is the seventh Half Baked Ideas article. Maybe the ideas are getting worse as they’ve proliferated. My dad told me the one about the skateboarding competition in Overstreet Mall was really, really stupid and I’m not sure I disagree with him.

Regardless, I press on sharing my ridiculous ideas with you all. At this point I think you get where I’m going with these things, so if you have an idea you think is deliciously half-baked, hit me up on email or Twitter and let me know what it is. I’m clearly running out of good ones and I’d love to publicize the great ones you all have. If you haven’t seen the previous ideas, check them out here: (Vol. 1, Vol.2, Vol.3, Vol.4, Vol.5, Vol. 6).

Also, this is the first Half Baked Ideas article since the muckety-mucks at ESPN shuttered Grantland, where the half baked ideas concept originated, so once again I encourage you to peruse the archives with much nostalgia.

Let’s get down with the halfbakedness:

(1) Gates to the city

Photo via Wikipedia

In many old cities the borders were set years ago when the boundaries were established with a wall that kept the bad guys out. You lived in a city for the protection that your fellow city dwellers provided, and a wall was an important part of any defense strategy.

Obviously, Charlotte never really had a need for such a wall as land to settle was plentiful in any direction around Trade and Tryon and conflict was at a minimum. And when there was conflict, we swarmed. Take that Lord Cornwallis.

So since Charlotte has no original gates to the city from 400 years ago that at one time protected the lives of the citizens, we also don’t have any ruins of gates that are lovingly aged and worn from repeated graffiti-ings.

In older cities, those aged gates have turned into great pieces of public art in the 21 century, so I say let’s fake it a little bit. The rough border of the city is the 277 loop, so let’s put a concrete archway “gate” at each rough directional border of the city. Here are my proposed locations:

(1) North: Tryon & 11 Street

(2) East: Trade & N Long Street

(3) South: Tryon & Stonewall Street

(4) West: Trade & Sycamore Street

Photo via Google Maps

What I’m picturing are gates that look like a scaled-down Arc de’ Triomphe in Paris, say 30 feet high. The type of thing that’s essentially a concrete archway that’s flat on top and spans the roadway, tall enough for large trucks to pass through.

Depending on how good the city’s insurance policy is and how much money we have to throw at it, maybe you make it so tourists can pay for a ticket to climb to the top of each gate for an elevated view of the skyline and surrounding area with those pay-per-use telescope things.  Either way, the gates should be decorated with public art from various area artists, ideally those with ties to the neighborhoods beyond the gate they’re charged with beautifying.

(2) Farmers market at Trade & Tryon on summer Sunday mornings

uptown charlotte farmers market

In previous Half Baked ideas, I’ve advocated for shutting down Trade & Tryon to vehicle traffic and making the area within a block of The Square open to pedestrians only. I get that this will totally alter Uptown traffic patterns, but I think any inconvenience that inflicts is totally worth it for Charlotte in the long run.

Seriously, in what metropolis can you drive a car through the city center at 5:15 on a weekday as part of your daily commute? It doesn’t happen. Big cities shut down a few blocks of their urban cores to vehicles.

*steps down from soapbox*

But I understand that people won’t get used to this idea of Trade & Tryon being closed to vehicles overnight. We need baby steps to warm up to this idea. So that’s why I propose that during the summer months (May-August) the city shut down the Trade & Tryon intersection every Sunday there isn’t some other street-closing event going on and open it up to a farmers market. Here are a few of the advantages of this idea:

  • Draw people to Uptown on a weekend for a non-sports, non-festival reason
  • Get folks familiar with parking on outskirts of Uptown and walking/biking into the city center
  • Encourage Sunday morning light rail and streetcar usage
  • Fresh produce to an area of town with (currently) limited-at-best produce availability
  • Get people used to visiting Uptown intent on purchasing something
  • I would personally like it
  • Open it up to pop-up retail like we saw over the holidays at EpiCentre and Foundation for the Carolinas

They already have the small market that sets up shop during the week in front of the Plaza building, what’s so hard about making that 65% larger and moving it to the middle of the intersection? Nothing, that’s what.

(3) Charlotte Knockout Tournament

charlotte knock out tournament
Photo via WikiHow

This one is going to take some explaining. In San Diego, the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club puts on an “Over the Line” tournament every year. Over the Line is like an amped-up version of softball that only requires three players per team and a much smaller playing field. Read the rules here.

The OMBAC has been putting on this tournament for 62 years. It’s an institution, which would be impressive even if it was just a regional sporting event, but it’s grown to so much more. Its present form is a festival of debauchery, unfettered Id, and in general adult activity.

One of the things the tournament is known for is the dirty ribald provocative over-the-top make-Howard-Stern-blush edgy colorful team names. They’re really funny. And dirty (link NSFW). The point is that this is a world-class festival of athleticism, humor and good times, and I think it’s something that could be replicated here in Charlotte, but with a twist that’s uniquely Queen City.

Charlotte loves basketball, so why can’t we have an event similar to Old Mission Beach’s Over the Line tournament but for the basketball game “Knockout”? Similar to “Over the Line,” Knockout takes the core principles of a sport, distills it down to the basics, revs it up to 100, and makes the competition more fast-paced and interesting. Basic rules here.

This is certainly a summertime event and it probably fits best in a park in NoDa or Plaza Midwood, really anywhere but Myers Park. You could bring in portable basketball goals, get a brewery or six to sponsor the event, have some offbeat prizes (Best costume? Worst costume? King of Charlotte?), and of course encourage limitless creativity with the naming of the teams.

Is it crass, immature, different and unlike anything else in Charlotte? Yes. And that’s the point.

(4) Eliminate paper use in the city.


Hey, remember like nine words ago when I was advocating that Charlotte start an unfettered bacchanalia around some dumb basketball game? Well, it’s time to drink a pot of coffee while taking a cold shower in your party clothes because this next idea is the exact opposite, and possibly more impactful.

I’m writing this on a laptop. You’re reading this on a computer or more likely, your phone. I know that zero paper was used in creating this article, and I’m guessing that very little was used in order for you to read it. My point is that most people don’t use paper anymore in their personal lives.

However, that’s not the case in the professional world, where physical records are required and legal documentation rules the day. I have no idea how to quantify this, but I would assume that the larger an organization (private business, government, large nonprofit), the more bureaucracy required and therefore the more documentation required. I think that’s silly.

So I say, Charlotte should be a leader in electronification of documents and declare that it will be “paper-free” by 2020. Obviously being completely paper-free is never going to happen, but what I’m advocating is more an intense investigation of every use of paper by the City and large corporations domiciled here (looking at you, Bank of America and Duke Energy), with the goal of drastically reducing paper waste over the next five years.

Let’s go nuts. No more city water bills mailed to your house. No more paper checks accepted as payment. No more Duke Energy statements mailed to you unless you formally request one (online or by phone of course). No more paper receipt from Bank of America unless you specifically ask for one.

Obviously there are considerations to be made for your grandmother who doesn’t have a computer or folks who aren’t tech savvy enough to pay all their bills online, but my point here is that Charlotte should embrace a bold challenge like being “paper free” and make as many strides as possible to getting there. Just because there are potential challenges doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Here are some potential benefits of such a move:

  • Cost savings
  • Community building around events focused on meeting this common goal
  • National press about Charlotte’s bold stance against paper waste
  • Technology innovation/startups/new tech jobs created around enabling a rapid switch from paper
  • Lessen the city’s paper waste

And I’m sure there are more. All I’m saying is, an easy way to brand Charlotte is to take a bold stance as a city about something we’d like to change, and a War on Paper is as good a starting place as any.

What are your half-baked ideas for Charlotte? Share them with us through the links above or on Twitter.


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