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Center City - The Carolinas Hot Spot

by Michael Smith

August 4,2005

Take a stroll through today’s Center City. It’s a far cry from the after-five ghost town of the prior two decades. Today, the Center City is the hot spot of the Carolinas for nightlife and urban living. We are fulfilling the vision of the 2010 Vision Plan with great housing and entertainment options. We have reached a true tipping point as our workforce has grown to 65,000 workers and our residential population will grow to approximately 15,000 by 2008.

With the achievement of an active nightlife and wonderful restaurants, an explosive growth in residential and a strong and growing office population, we will face new challenges in planning, events management, parking, public safety, transportation and transit. Our latest challenge in support of our growth is the changing needs of public safety. We have achieved wonderful growth in the number of people who come to the Center City on weekend nights for entertainment. These numbers include arts patrons, young professionals enjoying our nightlife and a new phenomenon is teens who are using the streets for cruising and the sidewalks for socializing. Cruising and excessive crowds on the sidewalks limit access by first responders (police, fire and medic), reduces traffic flow on streets and sidewalks and thus can limit commerce.

To deal swiftly with this problems, Charlotte Center City Partners has formed a public safety task force that includes Police Chief Darrel Stephens, Mayor Pat McCrory, City Manager Pam Syfert, and members of our Board, including club and restaurant owners and business leaders.

The recommendations of this task force included an immediate increased police presence in the Center City on the weekend nights when crowds are at their peak. This swift action has made a major impact. The Chief is also creating an Entertainment District Unit that will include 10 officers and assigned to the Entertainment district for weekends. They will be on bikes, on foot and in cars to intervene swiftly, to address changing crowd patterns and to be the constant presence on the street. Another recommendation is to change the traffic patterns along Tryon Street on Friday and Saturday nights to interrupt cruising. Many of these recommendations have already been implemented.

Other strategies of the Task Force are longer-term to keep Center City safe 24/7. At the top of that list is a call for more and better lighting on our streets and in parking lots. As we speak, teams with C-DOT are doing a complete inventory of lighting in the Center City, especially in our entertainment district around the Arena and the nightclubs and in the residential areas. They are evaluating the effectiveness of lights along streets and in parking lots and identifying places where more lighting is needed.

Center City Partners is creating an Ambassador Program. Initially, the Ambassadors will be deployed around the new Arena during the first wave of events. Our Ambassadors will be the friendly faces with the information visitors need. Eventually, our Ambassador program will expand to include other events and special occasions.

We are also working with parking lot operators to staff their property with attendants. We are asking them to actively cooperate with police to allow patrols through the lots. We are confident this plan is working and will continue to be effective.

We are primed for a wonderful decade of continued evolution for the Center City. Before the end of the year, the new Arena and ImaginOn will open. Within two years, more than 3,000 units of housing will come on line, more than half in high rise condominiums. The EpiCentre opens on Trade Street with entertainment and more than 250,000 square feet of retail space. Wachovia has proposed to build a cultural arts, office and residential campus on South Tryon. We are competing for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Ritz Carlton is coming in partnership with Bank of America. All of these milestones will create animation, economic expansion and new challenges.

We will continue to support this momentum and enhance our vibrant and safe Center City that is welcoming and accessible to all. We believe we have plans in place to do just that.

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