How can Charlotte build ‘better blocks’ and revitalize neighborhoods?

How can Charlotte build ‘better blocks’ and revitalize neighborhoods?

CHARLOTTE, NC (Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer) - A speaker next week will address what's become a persistent question as the city grows: How can Charlotte build vibrant neighborhoods that appeal to residents and have a higher "cool" factor?

Jason Roberts, co-founder of the Better Block Project, is scheduled to talk July 11 as part of the Building Community series. A collaboration of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Charlotte Center City Partners and the city of Charlotte, Roberts is the second speaker in the series. In April, former New York City transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan visited and spoke about transforming Charlotte's streets from being car-based to more inclusive of pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit.

"We are hoping that by bringing Jason Roberts to Charlotte neighborhood leaders will be empowered to take action in their own back (and front) yards," said Monica Carney Holmes, planning coordinator and urban designer for Charlotte, in a statement. "You don't have to be a planner or architect to test ideas and learn from them when it comes to neighborhood building."

The event is scheduled to run from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at McGlohon Theater. Free reservations can be made online at

The Better Block Project started in 2010, and focuses on subjects such as enhancing safety, shared access for pedestrians, bicyclists and wayfinding signs. They also focus on whether neighborhoods have amenities such as outdoor dining, an identity, space to linger and sit outside, a variety of food options, as well as welcoming kids, elderly people street performers and dog owners.

"Designing and building people centered places and spaces is critical to the long-term development and growth of Charlotte", said Charles Thomas, program director in Charlotte for the Knight Foundation.