I love Charlotte, but what the Queen City lacks relative to more established cities is a unique identity forged in history and tradition.
While a city’s identity is something that grows organically, I do think there’s opportunity to borrow some ideas from other great US cities. There are eight other ideas in the oven at 350 degrees right now (Vol. 1, Vol.2) but while those are still cooking, I used a bunch of leftovers and put together four more:
(1) Encourage city-“sponsored” murals on public parks. If the city is going to strip funding for ASC, then let art thrive for free in public areas. The Rail Trail received a grant for public art, and that’s a great start. If the money is there to pay local artists for their work, then by all means let’s do that, but in the absence of public dollars, we need to get creative.
Rather than make graffiti a felony, let’s loosen the city’s laws on street art. No more blank walls in Charlotte. Let’s tag every building. Sure, you’re walking a fine line between unsightly graffiti and beautiful, locally-inspired murals, but something is better than nothing, and if it was communicated correctly, we could have an understanding where street artists policed themselves to keep things at least PG-13 without feeling stifled.
Besides, any risk is worth a world where art is so prevalent in our city that you give directions to out-of-towners based on the street art around town. I’d love to say to an out-of-towner “so what you want to do is walk up Tryon until you get to the Ric Flair building, then take a right. If you’ve gotten to the mural of Muggsy Bogues blocking Patrick Ewing, you’ve gone too far.” That’s the Charlotte I want to live in.
(2) Find a vantage point for a Charlotte “Manhattanhenge”. In case you aren’t familiar with Manhattanhenge, it is a phenomenon where twice a year, the sunset perfectly lines up with the buildings in Manhattan to create a pretty cool photo opportunity.
I’m fairly certain we could replicate something like this in Charlotte; it’s just a matter of finding the right vantage point. When you drive east to west across Tryon, you’re going uphill, so that could produce a good view. There should also be an opportunity along the Museum Mile next to the Bechtler Museum. Maybe you could even get the Disco Chicken involved.
(3) Paint bike lanes in the Booty Loop. Even if you aren’t a cyclist, you can’t help but know about the Booty Loop, the popular 2.8-mile bike route in Myers Park. While everyone knows the general area of the loop, unless you’re an avid cyclist, you don’t know exactly when you are on it.
I say, let’s raise the profile of the Booty Loop by adding bike lanes throughout so it is clearly marked. Since these aren’t fully baked ideas, let’s go nuts and paint these lanes pink for cancer awareness to fit the mission of 24 Hours of Booty. Also, let’s add a B-cycle station on the Booty Loop. As it stands right now, the most well-known bike route in the city is exclusively the domain of citizens who can afford a $1,200 bike and an embarrassingly form-fitting suit. Let’s democratize the Booty Loop and put some bike share bikes on it.
Worried about slow moving bike traffic? Well, serious bikers on the Golden Gate Bridge got over the idea of sharing the road with tourists, so you can too.
(4) Set up kiosks in the Overstreet Mall and restrict permits to small businesses owned by young entrepreneurs selling handmade items. The businesses in the Overstreet Mall are mostly chain restaurants, which is fine. It serves a need. There are a few fantastic boutiques, but if the long term goal of the city is to jumpstart retail in Uptown, you can do that virtually overnight by taking the retail to where the people are with semi-permanent kiosks throughout the enclosed mall.
For an added boost, you could restrict all permits to artists under 35 who exclusively sell handmade items. The Overstreet Mall currently gets $0 in revenue from kiosks right now, so it’s not like you’re asking them to take a haircut on revenue, and the existing boutiques shouldn’t be intimidated that kiosks are attracting the same customers. In fact, I’d say this would be an incentive to get the boutiques to source more locally produced handmade stuff in their own stores.
What are your half-baked ideas for Charlotte? Share them with us through the links above or on Twitter!