Charlotte’s Uptown- the largest CBD of the Carolinas

Uptown Charlotte is split into four wards intersected by the crossroads of Trade and Tryon Streets. I used the borders of Interstate 277 and the railroad (to the north). Traditionally Dwtn extends all the way north to 277 but this area feels like a separate district to me. The term “Uptown” referring to the geographic location of Tryon and Trade Street, sitting at a higher elevation than the rest of the city. Much deliberation went into whether to use Uptown or Downtown or even City Center. Uptown eventually won out with City Center meaning Uptown and surrounding inner city neighborhoods.

The 1st Ward , once considered one of the most dangerous areas in Charlotte, has been redeveloped thanks to a HUD Hope VI grant into a mixed income district. Urban form here is ok as all housing is new. Not really mixed-use, but some good urbanism near Tyron and First Ward Park is attractive. The 2nd Ward  was formerly the location of the predominantly black neighborhood, Brooklyn, before urban renewal took over. Probably one of the biggest tragedies in Charlotte resulting in a uninspiring modernist environment.  Uptown’s third ward hosts the bulk of “Dwtn fabric” surrounding a streetcar line and Tyron Street. Lots of good mixed-use development, skyscrapers, cultural assets, sport stadiums, and the attractive Romare Bearden Park. The 4th Ward   can be considered a stand alone neighborhood as well but is integrated seamlessly with Dwtn. It contains Charlotte’s best Victorian turn of the century architecture with sensible modern in-fill and many great mixed-use amenities.

With the under development of the 1st & 2nd Wards, Uptown Charlotte has plenty of areas that need further urban development and infill to have the complete Dwtn package of vibrancy and walkability. Given the furious pace of new construction, I’m hopeful this will eventually occur. 
Click here to view my Uptown Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Great ADA infrastructure and generally good sidewalks, but street can be very wide and auto centric making it uncomfortable to be a pedestrian.
* Good population density in Charlotte but often pretty spreadout. 4th Ward has excellent density.
* With all most all the building being new its fortunately that much of it is quality design and good form. Generally the best architecture is concentrated in the core (Tyron & Trade) and in the 4th Ward. The 2nd Ward is spread out with unattractive buildings and the first ward is a mix of decent residential bldgs.
* Public transit is better is Charlotte than one would expect providing excellent service to Dwtn and to surrounding inner city neighborhoods. A couple miles out transit service is so , but limited outside of the City (keep in mind that Charlotte includes lots of suburban areas.)
* Great connectivity but lots of high traffic one way streets.
* Great dedicated bike lanes Dwtn and to inner ring districts. Decent connect out to the post WW II districts. Bike sharing system is limited to Dwtn and a handful of inner city neighborhoods.
* While almost exclusively modern, Charlotte has a great skyline lots of concentrated high rise towers.
* Great array of for sale housing Dwtn with a fair amount of moderately priced options. 1-bedrooms generally sell in the 200Ks, 2-bedrooms are generally 300K-400K but more expensively luxury product, good amount of 3 bedrooms but generally very expensive. Nice array of rentals priced similarly to most Dwtns… 1-bedrooms in the $1,000s. 2 bedrooms btwn 1.5K & 3K,  and a good array of 3 bedrooms.
* Culturally a good amount of restaurants & bars but pretty average for American Dwtns, lots of theaters (only one is historic), an Imax, several live music clubs, a handful of art galleries, and a great array of museums. Regional amenities include the convention center, a wonderful dwtn library, several stadiums hosts a professional football, basketball, hockey, and minor league baseball.
* Several high quality recreational spaces & parks along with many small corporate plazas. But no definitive civic gather spot.
* Schools include a couple elementary schools, a high school, and school for children w/ cognitive disabilities. Pretty good college presence with several dwtn only campus enrolling 6-7K students and Piedmont Community College located just outside of Dwtn.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Next to Las Vegas, Dwtn Charlotte has the least amount of historic architecture. Certainly a feeling of sterileness with all of its newness and lack of character.
* Uptown has a very strong office market with high rents and low vacancies. Total jobs is 70K, still much lower than comparable cities like Cleveland or Cincy, but trends are certainly good.
* Dwtn retail amenities is still lackluster. While there is a  supermarket, several drug stores, plenty of banks, only a handful of boutiques and creative stores. No bookstore.
* Solid urban form along the main streets of Tyron and Trade but pretty poor in the southern half of Dwtn (1st & 2nd Wards)

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