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A Creative City for Young and Old

by Patrick McCrory

October 5,2006

Recently, a Washington Post reporter was in my office and commented positively on how much the City of Charlotte had grown and changed since he last visited the city 10 years ago. I have heard several similar positive comments over the years and take great pride in the many comments that visitors make about our city. Most of the comments are directed at the Center City and our gleaming skyline, but when I question the visitors they comment on the friendliness of the people, the clean streets, good restaurants, beautiful neighborhoods and sporting venues or cultural amenities.

While I am pleased that our visitors make many positive comments about Charlotte, my interest is making sure it is still a city residents want to call home – and a place where newcomers want to live. There has been much conversation over the past three years about the Creative Class, a term and concept coined by author Richard Florida. Mr. Florida’s premise is that cities need to have cultural amenities and be a place that attracts the young and artistic for the long-term health of a city. The City Committee, Charlotte Chamber, and other groups have done a good job highlighting Charlotte as a city that can and does attract young talent. The continued population growth and influx of college-educated twenty- and thirty-somethings confirm that Charlotte is indeed an attractive city for newcomers.

I believe Charlotte will continue to be a magnet for growth for the young, but also for families, and senior citizens. I believe many of Charlotte’s new residents will be senior citizens, as opposed to the young, yet I don’t believe we are overtly trying to appeal to the older age category. However, we are already seeing the influx of “halfbacks,” mainly Northeasterners who retired to Florida, but realized they want the four seasons again, but not the cold of the Northeast, so they are settling in Charlotte and the Carolinas. It is empty-nesters and retirees who are buying many of the new, high-end condominiums in the Center City and beyond.

With 77 million baby boomers starting to retire over the next four years, I am sure Charlotte will see a significant increase of active, older citizens. They must be woven into the fabric of our community through activities and amenities that appeal to their stage in life.

Charlotte will serve as host city for a Cultivating Creative Communities Conference to be held at the Center City Marriott, October 24 – 27, 2006 (www.creativeconf.org) This conference will take a look at how successful cities are attractive to the Creative Class and will focus on four areas – Amenities, Creativity, Equity, and Sustainability with an overriding focus on livability. I believe Charlotte is the perfect location for such a conference and I am hoping that this conference will help us see what other communities are doing to attract the young and old.

Livability is a buzz word, but I believe it gets at what we all want from Charlotte – a place that will accommodate us as we go through the many stages of life from young to old; a place to raise a family or pursue one’s interests; to walk in a safe environment; to have good schools, to have many housing options; to have transportation options; to try new things; to develop a circle of friends, and to be a place you want to invite others to see. The fact that Charlotte has held onto its community values structure, which has helped us to maintain small-town friendliness, but also offer big city amenities, is a key factor in maintaining our livability hallmark.

I believe Charlotte is a very livable place and is getting better with our recent investments, but our challenge is to keep it in balance while we accommodate growth and make sure livability for all remains our focus.

So, when you hear a visitor praise Charlotte, take a minute to celebrate that others like what we have, but also work to continue to make it a great place for those who live here – young and old.

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