My colleague Jack Betts, who writes our This Old State blog, read the last post – Who tops 'Top Urbanist' list? – and suggested this, "Be fun sometime to do a list of the Ten Worst urban thinkers… There'd surely be some NC nominees." And he's surely right.
I saw that a commenter on my previous posting nominated Bissell Hayes to top the "sub-urbanism list." Right away, I started thinking about other Charlotteans (Bissell Hayes is a company, not a person, and now it's part of Cottingham-Chalk/Bissell-Hayes) who might be on that "worst urban thinkers" list.
Of course, A.G. Odell leaped to mind. He was a big proponent of uptown, to be sure, but his ideas for "improvement" were derivative of Robert Moses, or maybe Corbusier-esque. One reason downtown Charlotte has so many blocks and sectors that seem dead is that our civic leaders (Hugh McColl among them) kept following Odell's 1966 master plan for uptown development, when they shouldn't have. It tries to impose a single-use pattern, as in "here is your cultural district, there is your government district, here is your entertainment district" and so on. BAD idea.
At first I thought Henry Faison deserved a spot, for Eastland and other suburban shopping malls that wither, long after he's made his money and sold to others. But then, I thought, Faison isn't really an urban thinker, per se. He's just a developer doing what the city zoning and policies allow.
Here are Betts' suggestions:
• Whoever designed the Research Triangle Park – granted, it wasn't urban then but now it's an urban fortress, with concrete moat, in the midst of one the south's largest areas of urban academic sprawl.
• And how about whoever was mayor when the old Charlotte Coliseum was built way out yonder? [The first time that happened the mayor was Victor Shaw, but this being Charlotte he appointed a committee, headed by department store executive David Ovens, to work up a plan for a coliseum-auditorium project built in 1955 way out on Independence Boulevard. And the architect for both the old coliseum and Ovens auditorium? A.G. Odell. And while its location is horrible, and the big ugly parking lots are horrible, I do like the old Coliseum itself, with that great silver dome. And this being Charlotte, we did it again in the 1980s, when Harvey Gantt, an architect and planner was mayor. Built another coliseum way out on Tyvola Road./ mn]
• Or whoever was in charge of letting Raleigh's RBC Center get built in a place that makes visitors stand around in the parking lot after games or performances looking around in puzzlement: where are the bars, the pubs, the cafes, the restaurants, the museums? What were they thinking??????
• Or Tom White when he insisted the N.C. Museum of Art be built in an area where….(see RBC, above….) but at least there was a youth prison (Polk) handily right next door for the arts-and-petty theft crowd.