Conference Tours

Wednesday, February 2nd

Tour #1.   Downtown Greenville, SC – The Evolution from Mill Town to Vibrant European Village

Cost:  $15

This day-long tour is sponsored by The Lawrence Group – Town Planning, Architecture, Landscape Architecture.  Once the retail center of the area, Greenville’s downtown began to languish in the 1960s.  As shopping centers lured the major retailers to the suburbs, downtown was left with countless vacant buildings and no people.  Greenville faced what other cities faced, a dying downtown in the midst of a growing region.  To meet the challenge, Greenville embarked on "downtown redevelopment," remaking Main Street and creating an atmosphere conducive to office, residential, specialty retail, entertainment and the arts.  Today, Downtown Greenville is Upstate South Carolina’s largest central business district, with the downtown area accounting for over one-third of the total office space in the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan area — over 3 million square feet.  The downtown’s exciting revitalization stems from over 30 years of strategic public-private partnerships mixed with sound planning principles.  The redevelopment has evolved around a vision for a thriving "state-of-the-art" community in which numerous opportunities exist to live, work, and play.  The downtown is alive and flourishing as the home to offices, shops, restaurants, entertainment and many residents.  Participants will experience Main Street’s live oak tree-lined streetscape, numerous cultural amenities, the award-winning Falls Park of the Reedy with its Santiago Calatrava-designed Liberty Bridge over the waterfalls, the adjacent RiverPlace public/private development, and numerous other innovative mixed-use developments.  Transportation for this tour includes a bus and light walking.  Lunch and light refreshments will be provided.

Thursday, February 3

Tours Beginning in the Morning:

Tour #2.   Restoring Little Sugar Creek: Regional Vision, Local Implementation
Cost:  $30

This tour will lead participants along a vital new segment of greenway in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg system.  Participants will learn about the distinctive vision of the Thread Trail, challenges of restoring an impaired creek, opportunities to strengthen communities along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, and the inclusive partnership for funding and implementation.  The Carolina Thread Trail is a regional vision for a network of greenways and trails that will reach 15 counties in two states and 2.3 million citizens in the greater Charlotte region.  The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners directed its park and recreation department to develop a countywide Greenways Master Plan to improve water quality.  The plan identified Little Sugar Creek in central Charlotte as its pilot project, due to the creek’s flooding and region-worst water quality.  The new master plan coupled urban placemaking with urban ecology.  Its goals are to restore the creek’s natural function, provide access via multi-use trails, and establish a destination to catalyze investment in diverse urban and suburban neighborhoods.  Participants will see Little Sugar Creek, once underground in culverts, reborn as a natural stream while contributing to the city’s transportation network.  Transportation includes bus and light walking.  Light refreshments will be provided.

Tour #3.   Historic Neighborhoods:  Embracing Change while Staying the Same 

Cost:  $30

The tour will highlight the Historic West End, a predominantly African American area of Charlotte known for producing many of the city’s African American leaders.  At the core of the community is Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), a progressive liberal arts university located on  80 acres in the heart of Charlotte.  The tour will focus on two surrounding neighborhoods:  McCrorey Heights and Biddleville, which encompasses eight designated historic landmarks within walking distance of each other.  The first "suburban" African American neighborhood developed after WWII, McCrorey Heights was home to middle- and upper-class African Americans – and many civil rights activists.  Guiding redevelopment in the area is the West End Land Use and Pedscape Plan, which is a policy document as well as a development code.  Its zoning code is a hybrid of  form-based and Euclidean approaches.  The plan recognizes the area’s historic relevance while providing design guidelines, conceptual plans and useful graphics for infill development.  This is particularly relevant given the university’s desire to increase enrollment and maximize their developable area.  The plan also provides recommendations for neighborhood preservation.  The tour will highlight two implementation issues:  how to facilitate growth of institutions and businesses; and how to find the balance between preserving neighborhood character while promoting higher-density infill development.

Tour #4.   Revitalizing Neighborhoods and Changing Lives

Cost:  $30

This tour showcases the benefit of public and private partnerships that made Charlotte’s HOPE VI developments.  Participants will have a unique opportunity to have up close and personal dialogue with private developers, the local housing authority and City representatives about their experiences and innovative approaches used to bring these projects to fruition. Transportation will include bus and walking.  Light refreshments will be provided. 

First Ward (Earle Village) Is one of Charlotte’s original downtown neighborhoods.  In the 1960’s, many of the original housing units there were demolished; in 1967, Earle Village, a 409-unit public housing development, was built.  By the 1990’s, this community was severely depressed and was desperately in need of assistance.  In 1994, the Charlotte Housing Authority obtained one of the initial Hope VI grants from HUD to recreate public housing in First Ward. 

Arbor Glenn (Dalton Village) The Dalton Village Community was a 300-unit public housing complex located on 32-acres on the southwest corner of West Boulevard and Clanton Road.  The community is adjacent to the Reid Park neighborhood, one of the City’s revitalization neighborhoods.  Arbor Glenn, formerly known as Dalton Village, replaced 300 public housing units with a 392-mixed-income unit project. 

The Park at Oaklawn (Fairview Homes) The Park at Oaklawn is located on a 32-acre site, This development replaced 410 units of dilapidated, barracks-style housing units that were built in 1942. 

Siegle Point (Piedmont Courts) Siegle Point replaced a 242-unit public housing development in the Belmont neighborhood, immediately adjacent to Charlotte’s downtown.  Prior to the redevelopment of Piedmont Courts, the Belmont neighborhood was one of Charlotte’s most distressed communities. 

The Charlotte Housing Authority was recently awarded a HOPE VI grant to redevelop Boulevard Homes, which is a 301-unit public housing development along the City’s West Boulevard business Corridor. 

Tours Beginning in the Afternoon:

Tour #5.  Transforming Corridors:  Creating Great Mixed-Use Centers and Main Streets
Cost:  $30

Come and take a tour of Charlotte’s in-town mixed-use centers and vibrant main streets.  We will first visit the Metropolitan town center, an exciting mixed-use redevelopment of a previously abandoned retail site.  We will learn more about how the project was developed and see how a key waterway was environmentally restored as part of this new development.  Next we will tour the Elizabeth Avenue streetscape project that is helping to transform this area into a vibrant main street along the City’s new streetcar line.  We will then visit 7th Street to see a historic corridor in transformation along a state-controlled roadway.   The tour will finish along historic East Boulevard, where we will see how streets can be "road-dieted" to reclaim their "Main Street" feel and once again become cherished people places.  Light refreshments will be provided. 

Tour #6.  Destination Central – A Multi-Cultural Melting Pot 

Cost:  $30

Over the past two decades, Central Avenue has emerged as one of Charlotte’s most diverse and vibrant commercial corridors.  Immigration has played a role in this change both impacting both the social and the physical fabric of this auto-oriented landscape.  What one finds along Central Avenue is an organic urbanity that in many ways mirrors smart growth practices.  The corridor has Charlotte’s highest suburban population density, with a mix of apartments, single-family dwellings and small-scale retail, as well as high-frequency bus service.  The tour wll illustrate how suburban spaces can be reoccupied as pedestrian friendly, multi-use, transit-focused and diverse urban environments.  The tour will highlight the history of the business corridor as well as City plans and investments that encourage community and stakeholders collaboration.  The City has developed a concept to inspire community based actions and private-public sector investment with a goal of creating a shared vision for Central Avenue that provides a unique sense of community and place while preserving and enhancing its multi-faceted character.  The City of Charlotte will present its Central Avenue Intersection Placemaking concept.  A historian from the Levine Museum of the New South will describe the history and changing international demographics and regional cuisine; and a UNC-Charlotte architecture professor will discuss the how the built environment can be re-urbanized through grassroots and bottom-up strategies employed through partnerships with NGO’s like the Latin American Coalition.  Transportation includes bus and light walking.  Light refreshments will be provided.

Tour #7.   Smart Growth Implementation and the Charlotte Complete Streets Experience

Cost:  $30

This bus tour of Uptown Charlotte and surrounding neighborhoods highlights recent projects that implement the Center City Transportation Plan (2006), Urban Street Design guidelines and the Transportation Action Plan, with a major focus on reducing congestion, vehicle miles travelled, improving mobility and making neighborhoods more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.  The tour will describe how conversion of a suburban to urban interchange is revitalizing part of Uptown, show actions being taken to make Uptown more pedestrian friendly, highlight current and future transit corridor plans and showcase urban and neighborhood revitalization. Light refreshments will be provided.

Tour #8.   Three Towns, One Rail Corridor and 15 Years of Form-Based Codes
Cost:  $30

Beginning in 1996, the Towns of Davidson, Cornelius and Huntersville adopted form-based codes to regulate the wave of suburban development heading north from Charlotte.  After more than 15 years of built experience, this area is a national laboratory for what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating a better built environment.  Projects will range across the transect to include small mixed-use infill, traditional neighborhoods, mixed-use village centers, downtowns and rural conservation/environmentally sensitive development.  The tour will also discuss the preparations being made for the extension of commuter rail to this area along an existing line in the coming decade.  Additional discussion will focus on the architectural design review process, streetscape design, and bike and pedestrian friendly streets.  This mobile session will demonstrate the benefits of regional collaboration in terms of multimodal transportation network planning, transit corridor land use planning, economic development, branding and tourism.  Participants will visit TOD’s in each community and discover the benefits of long range planning and form-based codes for new development as centerpieces of place-making and smart growth.  Through a combination of bus tour, walking tour and intimate discussions, participants will learn all about the nuts and bolts of how a college town, a lakeside community and a farming community came to implement new urbanism across more than 100 square miles and grew from about 30,000 to nearly 100,000 residents during the same period.  Light refreshments will be provided.

Tour #9.   Using Light Rail as a Catalyst for Redevelopment

Cost:  $15

Take a ride on the LYNX Light Rail to see first-hand how transit has served as a redevelopment tool in Charlotte’s South Boulevard corridor.  Speakers from the public and private sector will discuss transportation, planning and economic development opportunities and challenges.  Highlights include a stop in South End, a former manufacturing district experiencing a rebirth as a mixed-use area and a stop at the I-485 Station, where an innovative parking structure design resulted from a partnership with the local school district.  Transportation for this tour includes light rail and walking.  Light refreshments will be provided.

Due to having to meet the light rail schedule, it is important that tour participants be at the meeting location at 1:00 pm. 

Sunday, February 6

Tour #10.   Small Town, Big Reputation:  What Does Livability Look Like in Davidson, NC 
Cost:  $30

In 2004, the City of Davidson (population 10,000) was selected as the overall winner for the EPA’s Smart Growth award.  We continue to carry out the principles of smart growth on a daily basis.  Since 2004, we have added a tremendous amount of mixed use, residential neighborhoods and infill development while steadily increasing the amount of affordable housing.  Davidson recently adopted its first comprehensive plan that has no less than eight livability themes as its cornerstone.  Participants will walk through several newly constructed affordable units, walk a stretch of greenway, have a walking tour of our historic Main St. and Davidson College campus, along with visits to a wonderful new urbanist neighborhood designed by Victor Dover and stops at the "Circles at 30" mixed-use district near Interstate 77.  Only 15 years in the making, the Circles at 30 is a vibrant commercial district complete with two roundabouts that are very successful at moving traffic off the freeway and quickly into a walkable, high-quality architectural townscape.  Participants will also visit subdivisions where a 50% open space requirement has created compact middle-class subdivisions surrounded by permanently protected and publicly accessible open space.  It also boasts a nature preserve and access to beautiful Lake Davidson.  Transportation includes bus and light walking.  Light refreshments will be provided.

Tour #11.   Downtown Charlotte Walk Audit with Walkability Guru Dan Burden 

Cost:  $15

Dan Burden, a senior urban designer and executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, is co-founder of Walkable Communities, Inc., and the Bicycle Federation of America.  In 2001, Time magazine listed Burden as one of the world’s six most important civic innovators. Having worked in over 3,000 communities and leading over 4,000 walking audits throughout North America, he is both the inventor of walking audits and the "Johnny Appleseed" for spreading walkability around the continent.  This walking audit (or "walking workshop") will explore the technique and methods of discovery by foot; trekking portions of downtown Charlotte, including Tryon and one of the historic wards, and other public realm features.  The discovery includes an interactive exploration by participants of streetscapes, urban development, urban infill, public space, parking and traffic management principles and practices.  This is a walking tour, so please wear comfortable shoes and other appropriate attire.  Morning coffee will be provided. 

Tour #12.   Connecting Charlotte through Bicycle Facilities and Behavior 
Cost:  $25

This mobile workshop will begin with a short briefing describing the efforts to provide bicycle specific facilities and the need for cyclists to develop safer and more predictable road sharing skills.  Participants will then choose one of two mobile, in-the-saddle tours.  Each tour, with 15 participants, will cover approximately six miles.  Bicycles and morning coffee will be provided.

  • Group 1 will provide participants experience using some of Charlotte’s bicycle facilities.  It will highlight how planning for light rail-enhanced opportunities to create a more bicycle friendly community and provided the momentum to implement these projects in a timely manner.  The development of on-street bicycle lanes, off-street pathways, greenways and transit-friendly policies created layers of facilities that encourage and facilitate bicycle transportation.
  • Group 2 will view and discuss diverse examples of engineered cycling facilities from the perspectives of their wide range of potential users.  This "sightseeing" tour will be lead by local experts with extensive experience teaching LAB's "Traffic Skills" to cyclists of all abilities and ages.  Examples of engineered cycling facilities will include lanes, paths, sharrows, routes and – perhaps the most radical approach – the (strategic) "no-build" option; how cycling can be encouraged on existing roadways with minimal engineering by clarifying when traffic lanes should or should not be shared by a bicycle and a motor vehicle.