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Charlotte - A Personality Profile

by Mark Peres

March 3,2004

I was asked recently to describe Charlotte: its challenges, opportunities and personality. Here’s my take on the city that is my home.

There are many challenges facing Charlotte, but less than most facing comparable cities. The big three challenges on my list are: (1) economic and racial segregation. The City is divided into enclaves where rich, middle-class and poor, and whites, blacks and immigrants rarely mix and, as a result, are uninformed as to the challenges and opportunities within each community; (2) low-density, single-use sprawl and car-oriented development that continues to degrade the environment and separate neighbors from each other and from civic life; (3) an undiversified economy. The City is heavily dependent on a small number of large corporations for job creation and quality of life. The City has a deep finance and management class, but a limited creative and entrepreneurial class.

What are the City’s assets? Here are three: (1) an ethic of faith-based and secular volunteerism. The City has a long tradition and mature network of active community service and philanthropy that invites new participants to roll up their sleeves, reach into their wallet and join in; (2) an ambitious spirit tempered by corporate pragmatism, resulting in a yearning to progress, a relative openness to new ideas, and well-managed and orderly public discourse. This New South temperament invites “can-do” initiative – as long as it is good mannered and funded; (3) a City where the center of the image has yet to be painted in. A clear canvas invites vision and energy. The Center City of Charlotte and inner-ring suburbs remain largely unrealized with vast potential.

The good news is that what is not yet, is what could be – a multicultural city of distinct neighborhoods, vibrant arts and culture, small business innovation and growth, schools, transit and greenery.

Charlotte is young, smart and well behaved. She has her graduate degree, a debutante’s connections, and money in the bank. She volunteers, throws parties and is proud of her lawn and garden.

She has not yet gained the nerve to write a screenplay, march for the disenfranchised, invest in a start-up business, live in a flat over a coffee-shop, dissent for ideals and sing in a band.

We love Charlotte for who she is, and for the life she has yet to lead. We’re comforted by her responsibility, and excited by her growing sense of adventure.

Charlotte will come into her own as she claims her history and is bold about her future. Our job is to celebrate her life, nudging her to let down her hair and embrace the world without fear.

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