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History plus Street Life equals Soul

by Dan Levine

June 3,2004

The Center City is the crown jewel of Charlotte. Over the years, our community has made great commitments to make the Center City the destination of choice for the arts, sports, conventions, government and business, education and entertainment. Our citizens have great pride in what the City is becoming. With all our progress, however, a central question remains: Have we created a place that calls for people to visit and return?

Great cities have it all. Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Paris and London: these are destinations that people from around the world are passionate to visit time and time again. Why? These cities have histories that are cherished and celebrated. They are places that have developed and changed incrementally over long periods of time. It is time that develops the patina of cities, and, in turn, makes them seem and feel authentic. These cities have something special...a soul.

Charlotte’s Center City has character, but does it have a soul? I submit that we are at a watershed moment in our city’s history. Over the next two years, we will witness the opening of new institutions that will make great strides in transforming the soul of our city.

Johnson & Wales University opens this fall with a class of 1200 freshmen. Think about that. Given that our current Uptown population is about 9000, these students will increase the population by 15% overnight! More importantly, these young people will change the dynamics of the streets. In great cities, life happens on the streets, and we will see this occur with greater momentum by virtue of J&W’s arrival.

The opening of the new Charlotte Arena will have an equal, yet different, impact. The Arena will host more than 40 games and another 160 events per year, bringing hundreds of thousands of people per year to our Center City. This will require a greatly expanded entertainment and restaurant district to accommodate them. The Arena’s synergistic pull will reposition the social center of the region to the Center City.

These are two big, and warmly welcomed, changes that will add great pace, and momentum, to our Center City. Yet will these developments bring any more soul? The law of unintended consequences will prove over time that these monolithic projects will spawn smaller multidimensional places of personality and character.

In this very way, First Ward has the opportunity to add to the richness of our city. Our company, Levine Properties, will be involved in helping to create a 24/7 neighborhood filled with street level retail and a collection of mid-rise residential buildings. We believe in the concept of incremental development over time.

The evolution of our city’s soul requires granular, unique, quirky places that cater to all people living, working and visiting the Center City. Charlotte has made great strides and has the foundation in place to grow into one of the nation’s great cities...with a soul.

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