View Full Version : Some New Urbanism in Charlotte

July 23rd, 2003, 01:23 PM

Charlotte is a typical sunbelt metropolis (I hesitate to call it a city): walking outdoors is done mostly in parking lots, or grimly in the morning with a weight in each hand.

There are pockets of New Urbanism, including a resurgent downtown recovering from a severe attack of parking lots. Elsewhere, developers have built pockets of fabric that physically resemble parts of real cities without connecting to form a greater whole:

Dilworth Crescent is one such fragment, tucked into a leafy one-time streetcar suburb of detached houses.

Here, for the well-heeled empty-nester or divorce’, cluster idyllically about fifty single-family town houses. I wish there were a town to go with them; and so probably do those who paid top dollar to live here.

Dilworth Crescent was under construction in 1993 (that’s 1993, not 1823). Its inspiration, clearly enough, was Boston’s Beacon Hill, with a dollop of Seaside thrown in. It predates Poundbury by a year or two, though clearly it shares some traits with Prince Charles’ Utopia.

Quirkily for its single-family surroundings, the land was zoned for high-density multi-family: great enough density that a slender high-rise was briefly contemplated as the centerpiece among the town houses. This was, however, soon abandoned for fear of the NIMBYs. Parenthetically, the first design was collegiate gothic, to match a big church across the street:

The design brief was to design the largest possible house on the smallest possible lot, with garage parking for each unit. (Does this sound like Poundbury?) Because the streets were private, as in Seaside or Poundbury, highway-department design standards could be avoided. The streets are barely wide enough for two cars to pass, speed bumps and traffic signs are unnecessary, and sidewalks are purely token. How could you possibly speed in a place like this?

There are no side yards, front yards are as deep as the stoops, and the back yards are walled: roofless rooms, full of outdoor living and horticultural inventiveness. Each house is different in elevation and in plan. Though built speculatively, these might as well be custom homes in their idiosyncrasy and diversity: one house even has a three-story space corkscrewing to a rooftop skylight. You can probably imagine the persona of the person who bought that one.

These photos were taken when almost no-one was home. On a Saturday morning the streets would have been lined with parked cars and chatting neighbors unloading groceries, two wheels up on the make-believe sidewalk.

The photographs make this project seem walking distance from the splendid Cesar Pelli Bank of America skyscraper that marks the heart of downtown. In fact, the distance is around a mile and a half, walking distance in New York but not in Charlotte, with its intervening parking lots and freeway ramps.

When this project was built, the houses sold for more per square foot than any houses ever built in Charlotte, even those on acre lots.

Go figure.

July 23rd, 2003, 03:46 PM
Hmmm. Driveways posing as streets. Without a pedestrian connect to the city center, why bother?

Thanks for the photo tour, ablarc.

TLOZ Link5
July 23rd, 2003, 05:06 PM
Definitely a strange contrast.

July 24th, 2003, 12:14 AM
Hey it's a start. And not a half bad one at that. And contrary to popular opinion, Charlotte is actually a fairly old city, it dates back to the 1760's.

July 24th, 2003, 05:12 PM
You guys are so blase', such New Yorkers!

I posted this project on the Skyscraper Forum and they are ready to lynch me.

They think I hate the project; they haven't figured out that I designed it. Unbelievable.


(Edited by ablarc at 5:19 pm on July 24, 2003)

July 24th, 2003, 05:51 PM
What do you mean you designed it? *You're claiming to be the Jim Gross you referenced in that thread?

By the way, we're 'ready to lynch' you because you insulted the feel of the city, not because of this particular project. *Charlotte is constantly insulted for lacking the urban feel of older northern cities. *This thread was written to be yet one more potshot. *

So, who are you, exactly?

July 24th, 2003, 05:56 PM
We don't care about your feelings. You idiots aren't welcome here. Go have your insecure discussions on your forum.

July 24th, 2003, 06:35 PM
Oh, boo hoo. *I've made Christian cry. *My heart bleeds for you, truly.

Obviously people on this board struggle to carry on actual conversations without having to add in a typical new york insult. *Great city to live in, I gotta tell you. *If it would make you feel more at home, I'll give you the finger...would you like that, crying Christian?

Grow up.

Anyways, ablarc, I was still curious to hear your comments about this community you say you designed. *Why not hop back to the other forum and share it with the rest of us?

That's where I'll be. *Too much crying going on around this board for me. *Poor Christian, have you stopped crying yet? *Oh well, I'm out. *Gotta head back to a forum that's actually interesting.

July 24th, 2003, 07:34 PM
I hadn't shed a tear until you announced your departure.

July 24th, 2003, 08:08 PM
Quote: from ablarc on 4:12 pm on July 24, 2003
You guys are so blase', such New Yorkers!

I posted this project on the Skyscraper Forum and they are ready to lynch me.

They think I hate the project; they haven't figured out that I designed it. Unbelievable.


(Edited by ablarc at 5:19 pm on July 24, 2003)

I checked it out, I think it's because of the tone of your initial post that sounds like you really didn't like Charlotte. That's certainly what I thought. You came off as a snobbish New Yorker who tried to compare Charlotte to New York.

TLOZ Link5
July 24th, 2003, 09:00 PM
I like it a bit. *Looks a bit quiet and tranquil because so many people must be downtown; but it's essentially a gated community. *I wish there were a bit of infill between the Financial District and this development; some midrise buildings to create a perception of graduated density.

July 25th, 2003, 08:30 PM
I drove into the Washington DC area last April to visit a friend. The housing developments I passed by look a lot like these pictures, except that they are generally clustered in one block each and are multi-colored. This is especially true of the Dulles Airport area, where my hotel was.

And guess what? Aside from a few near the train stations heading into DC itself, the whole area's car-based. I forgot to take pictures of them though, otherwise I'd show you, silly me. :biggrin:

July 26th, 2003, 12:10 PM
^ That's cause Dulles Arpt. is like 200 miles away from DC ;)'

But that part of DC does need subway service, badly IMO.

July 30th, 2003, 04:42 PM
You can like a place and still feel it needs more transit and new-urbanist-type stuff. *No condescention there. *I know a few transplanted New Yorkers who live down there. *They like their laid-back suburban life and easier cost of living, but miss the New York lifestyle at the same time.