Cover Story: Center City 2020 Vision Plan

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte is the employment hub of our region.  But in a bad economy, we've see significant job loss.  City planners are hoping to take that loss, and turn into opportunity.  PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson is unveiling Center City 2020 Vision Plan..what Charlotte's Center City and surrounding neighborhoods will look like in the next decade.

"It's Do or Die for Downtown Charlotte right now."

Charlotte's always been about looking at itself in the mirror.. witness this documentary from 1966 WBTV did looking at downtown's prospects, problems and possibilities.

It led the city to adopt a vision plan that leaders try to update every decade.

"Now is time to chart a new path for the next steps in creating a memorable place."

Today on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University.. city leaders announced the Center City 2020 Vision Plan.

Initiating a year-long effort to engage the community to come up with what it wants the Charlotte of 2020 to look like.

Former Mayor Harvey Gantt is a co-chair.  He says, "One of the things we want to make sure happens is that people don't see the Center City as just the haven for big corporate interests. We want it to be their living room. The living room for the entire region."

A place people from all over the region can come and enjoy.. making Center City even more of a destination.

What's on the table?

A vision to bring more retail to Uptown.  Some is already here.. stores in the Metropolitan complex.. where Midtown Square Mall used to be.

A vision to bring neighborhoods together.  There are 16 neighborhoods surrounding the heart of downtown.  Leaders want to better connect them, and see them take off in their own unqiue way.. similar to what NoDa has done in creating a funky arts district along North Davidson Street.

And finally-- a vision for a streetcar and mass transit.  Along with parks and greenspace.

As part of the kickoff.. they took us on a tour of the city showing off areas of potential development.

To outsiders Charlotte's seen as a clean, family-friendly city.  Consultants hired to coordinate the 2020 Vision Plan want to capitalize on that.

"What is Charlotte now and what do we want it to be in the future?" asks Jay Renkens with MIG, Inc.  "This is an extremely important and I think great opportunity for the community to get engaged."

Over the past ten years more than $5.6 billion in public and private investments have been made in Center City.  The list of developments is a long one.

But to go to the next level?

Michael Smith of Center City Partners says, "For us to succeed as a community Center City the middle of the region's got to be relevant to all. And the only way to do that is understand what do they want it to become."

The consultant team they've hired has designed master plans for a number of cities.. including L.A., Denver, Dallas and Calgary.

Price tag of the project $750,000.  They'll be gathering community input for the next 12 months.  In fact their first public workshop is next month.  They hope to have a final draft available a year from now.