Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Who's moving on up?

My buddy Joe (and earlier, Tom Hanchett) shared a fascinating, though lengthy article in The New Republic by Alan Ehrenhalt about urban "inversion" -- not the kind where hot polluted air settles over a city -- but a demographic shift.

His point is that Chicago and other cities are seeing more middle- and upper-income people moving to the center, and low-income families and immigrants moving out to the far suburbs. He attributes it to several factors: de-industrializaton, less crime, young people eager for urban life, and traffic.

It includes several mentions of Charlotte, which is experiencing the kind of inversion he writes about. Here's one:

In downtown Charlotte, a luxury condominium is scheduled for construction this year that will allow residents to drive their cars into a garage elevator, ride up to the floor they live on, and park right next to their front door. I have a hard time figuring out whether that is a triumph for urbanism or a defeat.

In Atlanta, he says, "the middle-class return to the city is occurring with more suddenness than perhaps anywhere in the United States," and most people say it's due to traffic and gas prices.


Anonymous said...

I'd also bring your attention to a great (but long) article in The Atlantic that shows the dark side of all this so-called revitalization - the huge spike in crime among populations displaced when public housing is razed in favor of new development which, let's be honest, never includes as many lower-income units as they originally promise. We can look at the proliferation of Section 8 housing in University City and the resulting crime wave up there to understand that the upscaling of the center city comes at a price.


tarhoosier said...

Thanks Mary, for the link. I note, with sorrow, that the readers of TNR are a MUCH more educated and outward looking group than those of charlotteobserver.com. Of 36 respondents to the online link provided there is one (1) political comment and it uses the word "czarist" as the figurative liaison. How quaint!

Anonymous said...

Wow what an idea!

You live, work, shop and stay in a protected area like a high rise that has everything you need. How modern, how unique!

Oh wait! Was this not the idea of the feudal system and that created the cold natured people who only cared about themselves and other just like them.

Charlotte has come a long way toward becoming the cold sterile community we are, and our many gated communities and high rises are a testament to that pursuit.

Anonymous said...

I don’t think the New Republic has a handle on Charlotte’s present or future situation.

Unless they’ve measured the pulse of uptown sales better than the Observer or the Business Journal, the information I’ve seen points to many condo projects either on hold or scrapped because of the economy. We have been, or will be, losing uptown jobs. Things may turnaround, but that’s not the case right now.

They seemed to have missed the ramifications of light-rail in this city.

The Lynx has redefined our “center city”, or perhaps rendered that term obsolete. It’s no longer just a one-square-mile core of would-be luxury condos, bars and entertainment near Trade and Tryon. “Center City” could just as well include future condos or multi-use developments of more reasonable price all the way down the South Boulevard strip to Pineville, or along the routes proposed to the university area or to north Meck.

Since one will be able to move rapidly up and down those lines, races and income levels will mix as well. Work in the old core, live and shop in Little Mexico, or vice versa, and never need an automobile. People will mix.

The image TNR seems to have is a center city populated by the cast of Seinfield, Friends or Will and Grace. That will probably be part of the mix, but you never really have a viable (as opposed to vibrant) core until you’ve accommodated retirees and families with children. Just where will those kids go to school? Will their folks want them going there?

Anonymous said...

Mary, it doesn't matter whether or not the section 8 people live downtown or in University, wherever there is low-income housing there is a high crime rate. Remember Piedmont courts? It's now Seigle Point. Seigle Point will have 50 townhomes, many of those affordable. But, what you see at that site now are apartments. Those apartments are all low-income/section 8/affordable housing. In fact, if you're a single person making over $52,000/year you can't even rent there. Sounds like Piedmont courts all over again to me.

tozmervo said...

Many of Charlotte's own urban plans call for "redevelopment" of huge tracts of low income rental and home-owner housing. These plans, unfortunately, do little to suggest what the existing residents are supposed to do.

More and more we will keep pushing the least able further and further out which will only make their situation worse. Energy costs in the suburbs are higher. Police patrols are more spread out. Public transit is virtually non-existent. And for the most part, the housing stock is built even more poorly than the public housing of the 50s-70s.

Unless Charlotte makes a concerted effort to keep a truly diversified housing stock in the city, we are guilty of creating the suburban ghettos of tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

A very simple solution is to stop building cheap, dangerous, infrastructure-less suburbs. If all neighborhoods are built with stability and flexibility in mind...

... but that would require Charlotte's developers and neo-con voters to grow some sort of social conscience.

Rick said...

Thanks first anon for posting the story from The Atlantic.

Substitute Charlotte for Memphis and it reads about right.

"According to FBI data, America’s most dangerous spots are now places where Martin Scorsese would never think of staging a shoot-out—Florence, South Carolina; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Reading, Pennsylvania; Orlando, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee."

This type of statement from the article got me called a conspiracy theorist on a previous thread when I suggested Uptown gentrification was caused by something similar.

"The city gave former residents federal “Section8” rent-subsidy vouchers and encouraged them to move out to new neighborhoods."

Bringing this back to Charlotte, I wonder where did all of those who were move out of Piedmont Courts or Belvedere Homes go?

From a Doug Smith column in 2007...


"A business park might be The Next Big Thing in revitalization in an economically disadvantaged corridor near uptown Charlotte.

City leaders are lining up behind a plan to redevelop a cleared public housing site off Rozzelles Ferry Road near the Biddleville, Smallwood and Seversville neighborhoods.

The 23-acre tract formerly was occupied by Belvedere Homes, a 147-unit public housing complex so dilapidated and crime-ridden that the Charlotte Housing Authority won a grant in 2004 to demolish it."

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Aren't we getting a little carried away here with the bleak descriptions of the suburbs? Granted there are some shoddily built subdivisions, and, there is a growing infrastructure problem (but who has been making development decisions, i.e., running the city council and county commission for most of the past decade--republican neo-cons or the democrats?).
Family friendly neighborhoods have been a major drawing card for Mecklenburg County for quite awhile now and those neighborhoods are mainly in the middle and outer ring suburbs. Policy decisions have allowed way too many apartments in East Charlotte and the University area and slap dash "high density" developments in some parts of the outer ring 'burbs. But much of suburban Charlotte is still a pretty nice to live and continues to draw new residents.

Anonymous said...

Calling Charlotte one of the "most dangerous" places in America is beyond absurd... it's downright insulting to the reader's intelligence.

Anyone who has ever made even a brief visit to the non-touristy parts of LA, NYC, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Baltimore, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, or even Newark would laugh out loud at such an exaggeration. Proof positive that statistics are inferior to on-the-ground experience.

Anonymous said...

"Mecklenburg County building permits skidded to new lows last month, led by a near halt in condo permits.

Builders took out 370 permits to build new homes, townhouses and condos, down 46 percent from July of 2007, according to Mecklenburg County records. That was the fewest permits for a July since at least 1998 and the second time this year that permits fell below 400, a level not seen for more than 10 years.

Condo permits were off 96 percent, with just 4 new ones issued compared with 99 a year earlier. These permits tend to be more volatile and had several upward spikes earlier this year.

Charlotte's new residential construction peaked in 2006 and has been in sharp decline for more than a year as the economy has weakened and credit tightened."

Is it time to say over-saturated?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

A move to the center city should not necessarily entail a high-rise lifestyle. We need medium-density development, especially townhouses and small-lot homes, in and around the center of town. Traditional neighborhood design is a tried and true formula for healthy communities.

sexy said...