Oct 24, 2020 - News

A long-anticipated plan aims to answer: What does Charlotte want to be when it grows up?

charlotte skyline 2 symphony

charlotte skyline 2 symphony

This week, the city of Charlotte will release its 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the first of its kind for the city since 1975.

The plan marks a culmination of two years of discussions and planning with stakeholders of all kinds, from millennial professionals to immigrant entrepreneurs. It’s a big-picture guide for the public and private sector, intended to steer decisions like the type of new construction projects the city approves, where it expands green space, and what neighborhoods will look like.

Think of this plan as a roadmap that will inform how the city plans development and infrastructure for the next two decades.

The idea is, moving forward, Charlotte’s development process should be less about cutting deals and more about viewing projects through the lens of this comprehensive blueprint.

“The city we appreciate today are from plans and thoughts and ideas and big-picture thinking from 20 years ago. We haven’t had this type of exercise in a pretty long time,” says Alysia Osborne, who is overseeing the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

A few key goals that will be part of the plan:

  • 10-minute neighborhoods: Charlotte households will be able to access essential amenities, goods, and services within a 10-minute walk, bike, or transit trip
  • Neighborhood inclusion: One idea is to allow more housing types in traditional single-family zoning districts
  • Parks and the environment: Make city government buildings and vehicles carbon-neutral, and increase the number of parks near neighborhoods

Next Saturday — on Halloween — the city’s hosting its big unveiling of the draft of the plan. It’ll be a family friendly affair from 2-9 p.m. at the Park Expo. And importantly, it’ll be a Covid-safe, drive-in event. You can register here.

Residents can provide feedback via a mobile app, and there’ll be a touchless treat station for kids.

The release of the draft is the latest in the city’s multi-phase process for the plan. Following the release will be a six-month review and adoption process.

Charlotte recently eked past San Francisco to become the 15th largest city in the country, census data show. But the last time Charlotte had a new comprehensive plan, the city’s population was about one third of the size it is today.

Back then, in the 1970s, the city was divided by redlining and by segregation, Charles Thomas, Knight Foundation director of the Charlotte region said in a recent video about the comprehensive plan.

“The 2040 plan is a way for us to correct some of those challenges in the past that have left people out and unable to rise in prosperity,” Thomas said.

The aim this time around is to make sure there is a diverse group of voices at the table. To do that, the city reached out specifically to five target audiences this time around to gather input, Osborne says: Hispanic Charlotteans, low-income residents, African Americans, youth, and senior citizens.

Adoption of a new comprehensive plan, one with inclusion as a main focus, comes at a time when Charlotte continues to grapple with addressing economic inequality.

Charlotte’s long struggled with that, as evidenced in a 2014 Harvard study that ranked the city dead last among large U.S. metros for economic mobility opportunities.

“We heard early on from our residents ‘Look this can’t be business as usual. We have to turn this thing on its head, how we’ve been thinking about the growth of our city, and do it a little bit differently,” Osborne says.

There are other more specific plans the city has that will be complementary to its 2040 Comprehensive Plan. For instance, the Tree Canopy Action Plan, which outlines plans to restore and enhance the city’s tree canopy, will pair with it. And the unified development ordinance, or UDO, an overhaul of the city’s zoning code, will spell out the specific development regulations moving forward. 

Taiwo Jaiyeoba, assistant city manager and planning director, has been spearheading the comprehensive plan for years. In 2018, he told the Charlotte Observer to think of the plan as a way to help answer: “What do we want to be when we grow up?”

“We want this to be an equitable plan for the people of Charlotte, but to be truly equitable, we need to know how development affects residents from all parts of the city,” Jaiyeoba said in a statement.

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