*Note: This is a guest post from John O. in the other class. Not a lot of this on the exam, but a good recap of urban planning challenges:
Today we had a guest speaker in class, Garet Johnson from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg planning department. She spoke to us about urban planning and how it relates to our area.
Why do we need urban planning?
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg area has been growing pretty rapidly over the past few decades. It’s still undergoing considerable development, and the population is expected to continue to grow. So the city needs planners to help direct and manage this growth in a responsible way. Essentially, they act as policy advisors, helping City Council to make good, informed decisions while trying to handle this growth.
How does planning work in Charlotte?
As I mentioned earlier, the overall goal of urban planning is to figure out how best to deal with the growth of our city. We want to make sure that the city of Charlotte is a nice place to live in the future, so we have to guide how the city grows. This is accomplished through:
- Planning specific areas- Determining what is needed where and when it will be needed. What areas need homes? What areas need shopping? Where do we need schools? Parks? Where can we put industrial areas?The end result is a detailed guide to the development or re-development needed in certain areas. This is the part that planners do, and later on in class, we tried to do it.
- Zoning- Determining where certain kinds of things can go. The city doesn’t want industrial plants next-door to people’s houses, so it places restrictions on what can be built where. Since this is a legislative process, it’s the territory of City Council.
Centers, corridors, and wedges
What is Charlotte’s overall plan? It’s more or less outlined in the handout called “Centers, Corridors, and Wedges” that we were given this week in class. It is the “growth framework” for the city.
- “Centers”- These are the hubs of activity in Charlotte. Places like Southpark or the Arboretum that are concentrated areas of industry or of commerce and entertainment.
- “Corridors”- These are the areas of Charlotte where the most growth is taking place. There are five of them, in a spoke-like pattern. They extend along major roads like I-77, I-85, and Independence.
- “Wedges”- These are primarily residential areas. On a map, they look like wedges between the corridors.
Some of the primary goals of the plan are:
- Connecting these different areas with mass transit like buses or light rail, and retrofitting the established automobile-centered system of roads to meet this goal
- Creating a better blend of these areas, and providing enough park space in all of them
- Encouraging “mixed-use” centers to cut down on the need for travel
- Building up, not out
Later in class, we broke into groups to try urban planning a bit for ourselves. We were given maps of the county and color-coded areas according to what we though should go there. The general class trend was creating mixed-use centers with residential, commercial, and entertainment areas all intermixed.
Webpage for the city’s planning department: http://www.charmeck.org/Departments/Planning/Home.htm
“Centers, Corridors, and Wedges” http://ww.charmeck.org/Planning/Land%20Use%20Planning/CentersCorridorsWedges/CentersCorridorsWedges(GrowthFramework_Draft).pdf