Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What University City needs

University Place -- the lone "urban" scene in University City
A study of housing trends in the University City area concluded it needs more higher-end housing near the employment core. To do that will require branding, strong and sustained marketing, supportive rezoning and significantly improved area schools.
The study, "Developing a Diverse Housing Stock in University City," from UNC Charlotte's Center for Real Estate, was funded by University City Partners and mentioned in the UCP newsletter for December.
The study notes that builders appear to have targeted the area for starter homes and townhouses. "Policymakers and the business community worry whether this will prevent University City from attracting and retaining upwardly mobile professionals," the report said.

The area lacks the urban-style communities that younger professionals most desire, other than at University Place.
Positives it cites: a big employment center, some large parks and greenways, UNCC, University Place, and the proposed light rail line.
To lure more affluent workers and higher-end housing, the study suggests:
  • Brand: Figure out what qualities make UC special.
  • Market: Devise a long-term plan to promote that image, getting help from the real estate community.
  • Urbanize: Encourage more urban-style development along the future light rail line on North Tryon Street.


Anonymous said...

Branding, Marketing, and Image Promotion are three things the people at UNC Charlotte know nothing about.
Is it UNC Charlotte or UNC at Charlotte, UNC-Charlotte, or UNCC??

Someone at the school should do a study on this.

Anonymous said...

Higher end homes would stabilize North/North East Charlotte. As ppl grow up and out of those existing starter homes, it'd be nice to have a place to move into without being way on the other side of the city from your friends, church, old neighborhood. We need something along the lines of a "Ballantyne North". This post also highlights the advantages of mixed-income housing - and planning for that from the beginning.

Rick said...

Any study that doesn't suggest reducing violent crime as the number one priority for the University area is worthless. It proves that political correctness once again wins out over common sense.

However, the real (but hidden) motive behind this report is obvious since it's sponsor was UCP. That group is currently working to get an additional 1/4 cent tax for transit on a future ballot. Certainly, they will use their own study as evidence to suggest that more transit funding is needed to attract these young urban workers to UCity.

Cato said...

While I agree with Rick about crime control being essential for that area, one basic problem is that the natural "center" of University City is UNCC - which is as poorly integrated into its surrounding community as any college I've ever seen. There's practically nothing that students can walk to that isn't on university property. And, similarly, there's almost nothing on university property that a resident of the surrounding community can walk to.

And I don't see light rail doing anything to change that (which, again agreeing with Rick, is probably the real motive for this).

Anonymous said...

The City leaders have not properly planned for a higher quality area when its zoning policies have been defensive and restrictive against enticing higher density zoning for mixed use projects. Many stores and jobs left or passed over the area to go the Concord Mills corridor in Cabarrus County. I would like to see a more creativity and increased land use plan for the area.

Justin Ritchie said...

I'm graduating from UNC Charlotte and I love the school. That being said, University City flat out sucks.

Worst integration between a university and its community that I've ever seen. Let's hope that a renewed interest in the campus from local leaders will drive some new zoning policies around the campus. Stronger justice system management would help reduce the massive number of repeat criminals in the area too.

Anonymous said...

To the first suggestion on branding...Stamats did do a study and it got thrown out because the U didn't like the response.

BTW...its "UNC Charlotte" for academia and "Charlotte" for sports.

Rick said...

I used to be a bus driver at a university, and that service connected to all the local shopping centers, bar areas, and fraternities. Service ran until 1:30 AM and students used it for everything.

If I'm reading the CATS map correctly, it doesn't look like the university shuttles go to any of the shopping centers on Tryon. If that's the case, that's just stupid.

Increase the universtiy fees and pay for that service. Problem solved.

Steve said...

I read the entire report. It has major deficiencies. The study Area is bordered on west by Eastfield Road and the south by Dertia, but not once is the north rail line mentioned. Even thought 3 stops are included in the study area (Deria, WT Harris and Estfield/Hucks Road). How can you say that light rail will effective future growth on one side other the study area and ignore the other side, especially when 2 major developments have been announced along the commuter rail line.

Nor does the report explain why Higher End housing is lacking in North Charlotte/University City. No research into supply or demand static’s just – plain housing stock numbers. No analysis was done on existing higher end housing neighborhoods (how long they are on the market, asking price vs. selling price).

Also the assumption that Better Schools drew parents away from area was not quantified. For one Huntersville shares the same school system as Charlotte, two- what is the test score comparison and student to teacher ration and over-crowdedness for North Meck and Mallard Creek to Cabarrus County Schools? And three what % of homeowners living in 400k+ houses send their kids to private schools.

The Report made the critical assumption that since there is little supply of high-end house there must not be any demand. You cant just look at Supply, that is only half the picture - you should research to see if a demand exists and is not being filled then explain why there is no demand or explain why the demand is not being met.

I would be embarrassed to attach my name to this report. a) they did not have an understating of the research area b) they did not study the market outside of newly built homes c) they started with assumptions never exploring if they were correct or erroneous and d) and real-estate agent in the area could have written the summary in 20 min. it just a regulations of stock numbers and assumptions.

Rick said...


Thanks for the analysis.

This piece appears to be no different than the light rail study UNCC did at the command of the Chamber during last year's transit tax debate - sloppy, biased, and done with an agenda.

It seems they are failing at their goal of meeting the "need for practical and academic research on real estate topics of concern to the real estate community." (from their website. emphasis mine)

Anonymous said...

This is what University City needs:

Curbs, sidewalks, bike lanes, pedestrian friendly intersections, and lighting on major roads especially around UNCC. I think light rail will fix a lot of those problems just like it did with South Boulevard.

Rick said...

Last anon, were all those improvements you mentioned and credit to light rail included in the stated final cost of light rail aling South Blvd?

No. They were not.

Well over $50 million in additional expenses added the things you mentioned at the expense of providing those services to other needy areas of the city.

If you don't believe me, ask Curt Walton to provide you the same information he provided at least one city council member last year.

Light rail did not "fix" those problems. Light rail boosters exploited the rest of the city and dishonestly hid the costs from the public.

I'd prefer that to not continue.

Anonymous said...

south Blvd is a state road and the improvements done on it during the construction of the light rail line were already scheduled by the state.(after much lobbying since the state does not like to have curbs sidewalks, and medians; just look at Harris Blvd or any other state road. almost none have any of those features mentioned) That means that the city will be, or has been, reimbursed by the state for the improvements.

Also some other changes such as utilities were agreed to do while the streets were being worked on so the utility company saved money and so did the city.

This is why those costs were not part of the light rail. Different government departments worked simultaneously to make the changes each department was already scheduled to do independently, and therefore save time and money.

Rick said...

And how does that not still funnel the bulk of our precious and limited resources into the light rail corridor at the expense of other areas of the city?

I missed that part of your explanation.

Jeff Hamby said...

The problem with University City is the crime. However, the crime has been caused by the affordability of housing around the University. Bring in some high end housing, some shopping worth paying attention to and some extra police officers and the University City will be banging again.

As for the integration of UNCC into the community, I feel the city is more to blame than the university. The university has a natural barrier all the way around it. This land is intended for the expansion of the university. The university is young and is going to go through growing pains in the next few years.

I currently attend Penn State in a town where the university IS the town. Believe me, it's not all it is cracked up to be.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all previous posters who mentioned crime being University City's problem. I live here now, and will be moving out in March. I love the location where I live (close to both interstates, not far from tons of shopping (northlake), restaurants, etc), however those amenities are not worth constantly being afraid to leave my house for, with all those getting robbed, mugged, and shot around here.

seneca said...

In fact there is high end housing in University City. Have a look at the UNCC chancellor's manse, nestled in a secluded, wooded lot on campus featuring (of course) no sidewalk access.

The most prominent new features of University City are the two mammoth box stores now under construction on N. Tryon Street, a huge new Walmart and the new Ikea megaplex. Did someone posit N. Tryon Street as the pedestrian friendly urban core of a revamped University City? Think again.

Anonymous said...

Even if a light rail line is built through University City, it won't solve the problem of overcrowded roads. Harris Boulevard, North Tryon Street, and University City Boulevard are all nothing but asphalt quagmires, where an injudicious press of the brake pedal is enough to back traffic up two miles. And I can tell you this right now--Exit 43 on I-85 will be nothing short of a disaster once they open that IKEA and the new Walmart. They need to go back and widen the ramps now to accomodate the traffic, especially since University City Boulevard will ultimately carry across the freeway.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice to have more local bus routes in the area. We live in the Mallard Creek area and my spouse works at UNCC, about 3 miles away. I work in uptown. I can take public transportation to work - but there is no bus that runs on the main areas in UC that just goes to the campus. I know several people in our region who would willingly take the bus to work, to UNCC. Add in some stops at Trader Joe's and the other major shopping centers and we wouldn't use our car on the weekend, either.

With the number of 55+ housing developments on Prosperity Church road, it's amazing there isn't more of a demand for local service.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break, I moved to University City in 1990 when there was not a whole lot there. We purchased a upscale home in a neighborhood that promised all kinds of amenities and shopping and mixed use. Then the city got involved and we got sandwiched in between 2 low income housing developments. I watched as all around University city they build cracker box houses and cheap apartments, in order to build density for light rail. I got out in 2000 and am gald I did.

sexy said...