Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Uff-Da! Twin Cities visit 'audacious' Charlotte

A large group of folks from Minneapolis-St. Paul were in town Sunday until Tuesday afternoon, on an inter-city Chamber visit. It's the sort of thing Charlotte civic and business leaders do every year, although this year they stayed home. Here's a link to the St. Paul Chamber's Web page, where you can see the agenda.

My friend Curtis Johnson, an educator and author of, among other things, the 2008 Citistates Report, was one of the group. He sent this e-mail report late Tuesday: "The delegation was duly stirred by its contact with Charlotte people. It prompted much discussion about whether Charlotte has audacity and MSP has ambivalence." He promises more info later.

Is Charlotte audacious? Are the Twin Cities ambivalent?

I sought the opinion of our departmental Minnesotan, editorial cartoonist Kevin Siers, who's from the Iron Range and lived in MSP for about 10 years.

"Audacious? If you mean Charlotte has more naked self-promotion, then yes," he said.
"They're [the Twin Cities] Midwestern, you know."

For the record, he points out that St. Paul and Minneapolis have distinctly differing personalities. SP is blue-collar, Catholic, and "has more interesting architecture." Minneapolis is Lutheran and "lots of steel and blue glass."


Anonymous said...

Wonder how locals will share the growing disdain for Overstreet and its relationship to the fabled Twin-Cities trip?

Anonymous said...

Charlotte's Got A Lot

Anonymous said...

y'all i dont know what any of those words mean...

Anonymous said...

What exactly do a group of city representives gain from discussing if we are audacious?

this seems like a silly waste.

JDC said...

I’m appreciative that Curtis Johnson “promises more info later”. We certainly aren’t getting any details from the Observer. Was this a top-secret meeting, Mary?

According to the agenda, the Minnesotans heard presentations from local government officials and Charlotte business executives on topics such as “Revving Up Charlotte’s Economy: Building a Strategy to Attract Workers and Jobs”; “Selling Charlotte: How Tourism Drives Economic Prosperity”; and “Minding the Gap in Charlotte: Initiatives to Reduce Disparities”. Wish we were privy to these crucial plans. Ultimately they will impact us all.

It’s interesting that Observer Editor Taylor Batten gave a talk on “The Unvarnished Truth: Charlotte’s Strengths and Weaknesses”. Mary, you see this guy five days a week and leave us clueless as to what is good or bad about this city?

Sounds like Charlotte has audacious plans. But why aren’t our leaders and newspaper sharing the details? Is Charlotte really being audacious, or just blowing smoke?

Some insights from studying the agenda: Wells Fargo executives gave the official welcome and a talk on “Getting to Know Charlotte”. In fact, nary a Bank of America exec is mentioned in the entire schedule. Could that be significant?

The delegation toured uptown, SouthEnd, Kannapolis, and University City. Even the U.S. National Whitewater Center rated a visit. Looks like the folks south and east of uptown are out of luck in future city plans. Also, most of the new jobs in this area will be related to NASCAR.

The St. Paul Chamber’s website had a PDF used to brief the visitors on this area. It notes that Median Household Income in the Twin Cities is $65,862; in Charlotte it’s $54,967. But even though we are poorer, we pay more for housing. In Charlotte the median home price is $171,500, compared to $171,400 for the Twin Cities Metro Area.

Let’s hear it for Charlotte’s developers and the councilpersons who support them!

Anonymous said...

Maybe the reason housing costs relatively more here than in Minneapolis is because our developers build such quality, upscale housing for the masses.

Then again, maybe there really is a good reason for someone to have brought up the topic "Minding the Gap in Charlotte: Initiatives to Reduce Disparities”. Enclaves of the extremely wealthy amidst the hovels of the working poor.

Our Motto: "Charlotte-we're really a developer's harlot".

Anonymous said...

Here's a topic they should have discussed:

"Step One in Attracting Jobs and Workers: Affordable Housing".

Jumper said...

And then - poof - it was gone.

Anonymous said...

screw those midwesterns we dont need em

Nativewhoknowsitsuxhere said...

I love MSP - a truly great metro, nice people, lots of history, beautiful lakes and rivers, great arts and music scene. The anti-Charlotte.

Only the weather slows its growth, maybe thats a good thing for them.
Obviously the Wells connection is their reason for coming here.

consultant said...

"Charlotte has audacity and MSP has ambivalence". Say what?

Most of these are cheap oil trips. Excuses for Chamber of Commerce types and city officials to travel and check out other cities strip clubs (you have to see where they go late at night).

But on another matter, why are Atlanta and Charlotte streets so disorienting? A bunch of curly cues, circles, cul-de-sacs, like the kind you find in endless suburban subdivisions. Why?

Didn't they know how to read a compass down here? Streets laid out along north/south, east/west lines are easy to navigate and more amenable to building neighborhoods.

Audacity? They must be talking about the NASCAR museum.

JDC said...

Consultant, There are good reasons why Charlotte streets are disorienting.

One of my pals, renown for smoking the funny stuff, temporarily moved in with us when he came to Charlotte, and began checking out various areas of the city for permanent lodging.

One night he was driving down South Blvd. in Dilworth, heading away from center city. He stopped for a traffic light at a big intersection and studied the street signs. To his right was West Blvd.; To his left, East Blvd. Then he looked at the compass on his dashboard. It showed he was heading southwest.

The experience completely blew his mind. He pulled over and, hyperventilating, called me and begged me to come get him. He has not taken a tote on a joint since then.

JDC said...

Actually, I think he was headed TOWARD center city on South Blvd. After he went through the intersection and discovered he was still on South Blvd. was when his mind went.

Jumper said...

Actually, Charlotte needs more audacity. The lack of it looks like this: Charlotte decides if all the other cities are building arenas for overpaid athletes, it's a good idea even on the tail end of the pro basketball craze. Or, Charlotte decides not to fund an unknown artist but hire one who is already successful but now cranks out a series of identical stuff. Or, Charlotte, seeing St. Louis's Arch has so nicely defined them, determines to build a Charlotte Arch - in teal. Or, if every other city is getting an outerbelt interstate loop, we have to get one, regardless.

That's the sort of stuff that is NOT audacious. So, yes, we need audacity.

If we shouted "bullshit" on bank mega-mergers, now,that would be audacious.

Anonymous said...

The main advantage Charlotte and the southeast has over far Northern cities like the Twin Cities is the weather and long growing season. Up there Spring/Summer is VERY short and people are stuck indoors most of the time because it is so cold.

Eman said...

consultant:"Didn't they know how to read a compass down here? Streets laid out along north/south, east/west lines are easy to navigate and more amenable to building neighborhoods."

It is because we are in the Piedmont here, which is composed of rolling hills (some big, others small).

It is very easy to build grids when the land is flat as it is up in the Midwest; but the land is obviously not flat here, and most of the time they chose to build around the hills because it was easier and more economical. In the past, most streets were of course designed for horse and buggy, and it was A LOT easier on horses if streets were built around the hills because it makes horses tire out very quickly if they have to climb up hill after hill.

Anonymous said...

When will Jumper actually jump?

Anonymous said...

consultant asked: "why are Atlanta and Charlotte streets so disorienting?"

answer: to confuse the next General William Tecumseh Sherman who happens through.

consultant said...

I understand the sharp, hilly terrain. But not all of the areas in Charlotte and Atlanta are hilly. San Francisco, Oakland, Kansas City (for those who think the place is flat), Miami, Jacksonville, New Orleans and Seattle all have terrain features that could have made early planners give up straight streets and go with the flow.

And what's with all the names that run 3 or 4 blocks?

During the '96 Olympics here in Atlanta, an idea floated to rename most of the streets in the city (better navigation for out-of-towners). The thinking was, we couldn't do anything about the curvy streets, but at least we could put names on them that would run for some distance and add numbers that would make sense. It didn't make it past the real estate crowd that ran the show.

In Atlanta or Charlotte you can say 55th & Main (or whatever street), and most people in the area have no idea where you are talking about.

Charlotte can't move into the "audacious" category until it figures out its street grid.

Atlanta too.

Ex-Atlantan said...

Figuring out which Peachtree is the correct Peachtree you need is part of the literacy test for living in Atlanta. Mind you, I said literacy test, not driving test.

The proposal to change the Atlanta street names for the Olympics did have one important side effect, for at least one street name was changed. All of the crime, drugs, prostitution, etc., that was occurring on Stewart Avenue magically vanished as soon as the name was changed to Metropolitan Parkway.

Jumper said...

Anon 6:13, as soon as your head comes into focus! It's a little blurry!

Scott Jensen, MBA, Realtor said...

Very interesting...I hope they brought back good thoughts of Charlotte to the twin cities.

The Problem Solver said...

I think Charlotte could prevent more sprawl by taking control of the street naming process.

For example, let's say a developer announces plans for a new single-family project in far southeast Charlotte. And let's suppose the city has previously passed a law requiring developers to first submit detailed street plans to CDOT before any construction can start.

The city checks the blueprints and immediately dispatches a crew to erect street signs with city-originated names. Let's assume this particular neighborhood will have two streets.

The city marks the layout of the first street as Toxic Spill Lane, and the second as Sewage Plant Trail. Since the city would also be required by law to announce new subdivisions and street names in the Obsever, this effectively would discourage any yuppies from subsidizing the developer's denuding of the forested area.

Also, the city could rename streets as needed to encourage denser development within central Charlotte.

For example, renaming Berryhill Road to SharonQuailRaeGlen Trace would cause developers to fall all over one another in their race to build housing in that area, unaffordable to all except the yuppies that center city hopes to attract.

Jumper said...

"Slow blogging." An anti-tweet antitweet.

Anonymous said...

JDC wrote above: "Some insights from studying the agenda: Wells Fargo executives gave the official welcome and a talk on “Getting to Know Charlotte”. In fact, nary a Bank of America exec is mentioned in the entire schedule. Could that be significant?"

Well, now we know the significance. They are all scurrying around the political water cooler asking questions like "Will BOA HQ move elsewhere? What happens if my boss moves? Will I ever recoup the money I spent on my $1,000,000 house?"

Anonymous said...

I visited MSP this past summer. Usually, these inter-city visits are for the host city to school the visiting city on a few things, but in this case it should be the other way around.

MSP could do a seminar on downtown retail called "Overstreet Mall and Street-facing retail: They Can Exist Together." They have both in downtown MSP and both are doing just fine. Recall that we have decided here that the two are mutually exclusive and have forbidden any new above-street bridges from being built (and believe me, we Duke Energy employees would have loved to see a new one connecting our current HQ with the HQ under construction).

MSP could also hold a seminar entitled "How To Build A Light Rail Line That Makes Sense." Theirs goes from downtown to the airport to Mall of America - as opposed to ours, which goes from downtown to.... ??????????