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jb4563

Does Charlotte have character?

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Does Charlotte (particularly Center City) have character, or is it devoid of character....sterile?

Visiting other cities, like Boston and Seattle (both similar size to Charlotte) seems to make Charlotte so, well, boring.

You walk down their streets, and the city seems alive with character. A hub-bub of activity (more than just people going to work). Tourists, street performers, artists, shopping, etc. And, Charlotte seems to lack this feeling of character. Our city seems so sterile compared to other cities.

Am I jaded? Do we have character? What is it?

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How long have you lived here? I can say it does have a lot more now then it did 10 years ago. But you're right, it doesn't have that same hub-bub or eccentric activity that a Boston or Seattle has. The obvious answer is density. Put that many people in a tight space, and something bizarre and entertaining is bound to happen.

There are other factors too though, and I think it stems from what brings people to this city. Seattle is a meca for environmentalism, while Boston is a meca for the over-educated and soon to be over-educated. Charlotte is a meca for people wanting employment, and to some, a low-cost suburban lifestyle.

Additionally, it lacks large-scale tourism, which fills many city centers with people from all over the globe eager to ask you in strained English how to find the such and such.

Charlotte also has fewer ethnic neighborhoods than most cities. It is a socio-economically divided city, rather than a racially/ethnically divided one. From a resident's perspective, I like that. From an outsider's perspective, it probably seems dull.

I'll add more later as I rack my brain about character that Charlotte does possess.

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Boston and Seattle have a very different character. They have a very different culture. They're also both more famous cities than Charlotte, so it's expected that there will be more activity there. Really, you can't compare Charlotte to Boston and Seattle any more than you can compre Boston to Seattle. They're all so different. (Did I say different enough times?)

Every city has unique characteristics. Charlotte, for example, is a very warm and welcoming city. Not every city can say that.

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If you define character in terms of openness and unique attractiuons, then Charlotte is loaded with it. Look around; you'll see planty of both.

The cultural groups in Charlotte traditonally have not as diverse as they are in larger cities, but that is rapidly changing. Nowadays, you can find people from every major world culture and walk of life in metro Charlotte and each one brings their own flavor into the mix, creating a dynamic city.

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Charlotte will get there, you guys. From its peer cities that I've visited (Birmingham, Jacksonville), I'd say that Charlotte probably has an edge in developing a really vibrant, soulful downtown area; I don't think it's too far away now. I'm sure Boston, Seattle, Portland, etc. went through similar stages to get to where they are now.

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Boston is a meca for the over-educated and soon to be over-educated.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

LOL!! Very well said. Also known as the future "career student" class.

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Also, character is a very personal thing. How many people, I can't tell you, said NYC lost its character in the 1980s when the "artful" graffiti which completely covered its subway trains was removed and the XXX porn shops proliferating Times Square were cleaned up and turned into "Disneyland".

I think Charlotte has a decent amount of character now, but the growth rate of its character is high and will continue an upward linear move. Like altrvr said, we just need more density to keep the momentum going.

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I think the Downtown area had much much more "character" 25 years ago than it does now. In the 2.5 decades since then we have managed to sterialize the DT area of anything that would not fit into a Norman Rockwell painting, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. What retail and beaneries remain cater to either the highend or the business crowd, which are closed outside of business hours.

In 1979 you could get a shirt made on the street or buy some disco clothes at TJ's HighStyle, buy some music at Shazada records, check out a porno at the Venus XXX peep show, have your oil changed at Sears, buy household goods at Woolworths, get a low cost dress at the Diana shopps or an expensive Fur at Montaldos, eat cafeteria food at S&K Cafeteria, go to Belks or Iveys, shoot pool at the pool hall on Trade while watching the whores pick up their tricks, buy gasoline and other stuff at the Fast Fare convenience store on Tryon, etc etc. Charlotte had grit and character then.

None of that exists today and there is no hope that it will come anytime soon.

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Charlotte is more of a big suburb than a city, it is growing, and learning from other cities, but it is very 'vanilla' compared to other cities.

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Charlotte has lots of character. While uptown may have been flattened over the past 30 years, Myers Park, Dilworth, Elizabeth, Plaza-Midwood and North Davidson are all still here (although Myers Park is being threatened by tear-downs and McMansions).

I view my adopted hometown as more than just what's contained within the I-277 loop. Sure, there are characterless areas and suburbs, but for the most part, there's lots of soul here...you just have to not be lazy and go look for it. Any city is what you make of it.

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In 1979 you could get a shirt made on the street or buy some disco clothes at TJ's HighStyle, buy some music at Shazada records, check out a porno at the Venus XXX peep show, have your oil changed at Sears, buy household goods at Woolworths, get a low cost dress at the Diana shopps or an expensive Fur at Montaldos, eat cafeteria food at S&K Cafeteria, go to Belks or Iveys, shoot pool at the pool hall on Trade while watching the whores pick up their tricks, buy gasoline and other stuff at the Fast Fare convenience store on Tryon,  etc etc.  Charlotte had grit and character then.

None of that exists today and there is no hope that it will come anytime soon.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Look no further than Eastland Mall or Wilkinson Blvd for all of the fun mentioned above. Why just last week I was approached (while getting gas on Wilkinson enroute to the airport) by a whore. She was very pleasant and offered far more than anyone else has offered me lately, but I digress.

Only one thing you can't get in Charlotte anymore---decent porn. :whistling:

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I'm glad monsoon already said it - but my view of a city's 'character' has more to do with how much of the 'city' is left - meaning, pre WWII. With Atlanta, you would have to go back to 1960, before the 1960's urban renewal which decimated about 3/4 of downtown to view Atlanta downtown's peak. With Charlotte - my guess would be what monsoon said, or maybe before - before the freeways & before housing redevelopment.

But two things to consider -

1, be careful of what you ask for - there are a lot of cities that have boatloads of character. But they also have plenty of crime & poverty.

2, design that is respectful of the community & street can bridge the gap (1960 - 2000) of disrespectful design that has led to 'characterless' downtowns.

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I'm glad monsoon already said it - but my view of a city's 'character' has more to do with how much of the 'city' is left - meaning, pre WWII.  With Atlanta, you would have to go back to 1960, before the 1960's urban renewal which decimated about 3/4 of downtown to view Atlanta downtown's peak.  With Charlotte - my guess would be what monsoon said, or maybe before - before the freeways & before housing redevelopment.

But two things to consider -

1, be careful of what you ask for - there are a lot of cities that have boatloads of character.  But they also have plenty of crime & poverty. 

2, design that is respectful of the community & street can bridge the gap (1960 - 2000) of disrespectful design that has led to 'characterless' downtowns.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I understand your point, but where do you draw the line on character? I was in NY for the Holiday, and while there are lots of great old buildings, they are inhabited by Disney, H&M, Banana Republic, Gap, Nike Town, Swatch, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Crate and Barrel, etc. For me character has more to do with things organic. Even New York is becoming bland and homogeneous. Give me something home-grown anytime over mass-market consumerism.

Just as Smelly said, even Times Square has been white-washed and turned over to Michael Eisner. One of the tallest buildings in Midtown has a "Lion King" ad on the top. If that's character, I want nothing to do with it.

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Actually - great point Miessian, one that I really don't have an answer to. But is Times Square truely representative of all of Manhattan? That would be saying Peachtree Center is representative of downtown Atanta - what a horrible thought.

But my view on 'character', which is an abstract notion which is why I quote it , is very fluid. I shouldn't state that pre WWII preserved downtowns are always full of character, but as I did suggest - by developing with a complimentary design will develop a downtown with 'character'. Even some cities have done this with parking decks, which leads me to a reply concerning rehabilitation of older structures with modern retail franchises: Miami Beach. South Beach is full of character yet is certainly a shining symbol of consumer whorism.

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For me, character is witnessing the unexpected........in my mind, I have an idea of what functional city should contain, and anything beyond that expectation is character............but I tend to over-simplify things for my own sake.

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Actually - great point Miessian, one that I really don't have an answer to. But is Times Square truely representative of all of Manhattan? That would be saying Peachtree Center is representative of downtown Atanta - what a horrible thought.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

While it may not be entirely representative of Manhattan, the truth is that NYC on the whole is becoming more and more bland every day, as upscale chain luxury stores replace small boutiques. It's happened along 5th Avenue, it's happening in SoHo. Not overnight, but slowly. I mean the NBA Store? The Fashion Cafe? Please. NYC got its first Kmart in 1995 and will soon have its first Home Depot. And if I had a nickel for every Gap store in Manhattan....

Most of the mom-and-pop clothing stores in the Garment District have been displaced by chains. Where downtown lofts were once occupied by true artists and bohemians, they are now million dollar show pads for upwardly mobile yuppies.

It's the tradeoff we first experienced during the Giuliani years - he asked us, did we want XXX peep shows, graffiti, garbage strikes and high crime or a pleasant, controlled and orderly society? Well NYC got the latter, but at the expense of "Fun City" slowly fading away and much of its "gritty" character with it.

Sadly, I think this is a national trend, as people tend to gravitate more and more towards familiar labels and national brands and cities cater toward entertaining the tourist class.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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For me, character is witnessing the unexpected........in my mind, I have an idea of what  functional city should contain, and anything beyond that expectation is character............but I tend to over-simplify things for  my own sake.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Or (or also...), as I was thinking - character is contrary to accepted standard norm. Just as if a business man who wears flip flops has character (or maybe just an ass) what is contrary to the accepted norm in downtown is character. A building housing a ballerina studio but also a head shop, someone selling fried pickles on the sidewalk, or among the office towers, a few small bungalows with families still living in them.

But I know it has to be more than that, not just eccentric behavior. As I was originally proposing it to be based on architecture & urban design - my view that NOT just a pre-WWII downtown, but one that almost effortlessly fuses modern design in it, is still my primary view of 'character'. But 'character' is optional, correct? So, Charlotte has character, it just might just be corporate character, as truthfully most US downtowns have. Atlanta's might combine corporate & some elements of dilapidation, Asheville's downtown character is possibly eccentric & Charleston's character is grace.

So - what kind of character is the more important question.

... sorry, just a little off topic pop-philosophy rant :)

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Actually - great point Miessian, one that I really don't have an answer to.  But is Times Square truely representative of all of Manhattan?  That would be saying Peachtree Center is representative of downtown Atanta - what a horrible thought. 

But my view on 'character', which is an abstract notion which is why I quote it , is very fluid.  I shouldn't state that pre WWII preserved downtowns are always full of character, but as I did suggest - by developing with a complimentary design will develop a downtown with 'character'.  Even some cities have done this with parking decks, which leads me to a reply concerning rehabilitation of older structures with modern retail franchises:  Miami Beach.  South Beach is full of character yet is certainly a shining symbol of consumer whorism.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Brad, you are right on target and I agree with most of what you wrote. I have to wonder though, what did the people of Paris think in the 19th Century when Napoleon III trashed the medieval city for what we see today? Baron Haussmann's work destroyed most of central Paris. He transformed over 60% of Paris' buildings and created long avenues giving perspectives on monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Opera Garnier. A large part of the city's history was erased within 10 years, yet I doubt anyone would complain today.

My point is that healthy cities change. Who's to say which is better? Personally, I would have loved for Charlotte to have kept its core intact. But let's be fair, there wasn't a lot here to begin with. New York, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco have all torn down in the name of progress. The Empire State Building sits on the site of one of the most beautiful hotels ever built, the original Waldorf. It was demolished after only being built a mere 20 years earlier.

The difference between those cities and Charlotte is that they were/are much bigger and have a larger inventory of pre-WWII structures. Even places like Birmingham, Alabama (which has some beautiful early 20th Century structures) had nearly 200,000 more people in 1920 than Charlotte. They simply have a lot more to work with.

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