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krazeeboi

Charlotte and the middle class

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I came across an interesting excerpt in this article (registration is free, but you can use bugmenot.com to get around it) about the revitalization of the American city:

Many cities, rather than trying to uplift their working class and nurture a middle class, have chosen to concentrate on "luring" the affluent, the hip, and the young as their primary development strategy...

Many other cities, particularly hard-pressed former industrial centers like Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Detroit, have attempted to follow this "cool city" model without much success...

In contrast, there is a group of cities which most commentators consider chronically unhip

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I had never thought about it in that light, but I actually think that IS true.

I think the primary reason for that is the basic point that the stereotypical suburban life, as boring and uncool as can be, is actually what most middle class people want.

Charlotte, like the others listed, are up-and-coming, so people can move here and expect a consistent improvements.

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I came across an interesting excerpt in this article (registration is free, but you can use bugmenot.com to get around it) about the revitalization of the American city:

How true do you guys think this is of Charlotte?

The article messes up as follows. They are comparing the center city of the losing cities to the Charlotte Metro. If you compare the center city of one of these places to the center city of Charlotte you will find there is a remarkable amount of similarity. i.e. A huge amount of public/private investment that does little for the 99% of the people in the area. The difference is the suburbs of Charlotte are a lot stronger than the suburbs of say Philadelphia.

For example if you look at center city Philadelphia vs center city Charlotte and you will find that both places are very similar in the mistakes they are making in the type of people they are trying to attract. And both are haveing similar levels of success. In Charlotte's case there has been maybe $10 Billion dollars of economic (private/public) in the downtown area since 2000 and the downtown population has increased by what, 3000? This in a metro that has added 100,000 in the same period. Philly has the disadvantage in that its metro area, which is based on industries that are losing jobs, are also losing people as well.

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^That's one thing I noticed as well. I see Charlotte also trying to emulate the "boutique city" model with the Wachovia arts campus, the new arena, various condo projects, etc.

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The investments in the center cities serves significant numbers of suburban dwellers. The banking jobs that are tied to many of these billions of dollars in investment create multiplier effects in Ballantine, Union County, Lake Norman, etc.

I think the premise that this investment is somehow isolated and is just for people who live blocks away is a major reason that some suburbanites are opposed to much of those amenities.

I agree with Mr. McColl's philosophy. You can't have successful suburbs unless you have a successful core. They feed off eachother. The city's core defines the place, providing a cultural and economic focal point, that spills out to the entire region.

It is the reason that hundreds of thousands of people pour into the central section of the city each day.

That investment has created the economic boost that has brought the middle class here.

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^One could say the same thing about the "boutique cities" that the author mentions, like San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, etc. Seems as though their cores have been too successful, and as a result the middle class is being pushed further and further away from the city. I'm not saying that the cost of living in Charlotte will rival that of San Francisco anytime soon, but is Charlotte still somewhat emulating the "boutique city" model, which will be at the expense of the middle class?

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Yes. Not only does it drive the average person away from the center city due to costs, companies also flee the center of Charlotte because there is no advantage to locating there. Case in point the large number of jobs going to York county and the fact that Lowes decided to build their new HQ in Iredell county instead of downtown Charlotte. Even Microsoft, no doubt one of the most well off companies in the USA which could buy every tower in downtown Charlotte, shunned moving to downtown a couple of years ago and instead built a new campus in suburban SW Charlotte.

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Does the average middle class person want to live in an urban core? Mostly I guess I am wondering about people with kids. Certainly there are plenty that do, but I've always gotten the feeling that even if downtown were more affordable families most often choose suburban life for large yards, community pools, the feeling of being "safer" because they are out of the city <-- all of the things that are touted as the good life in the 'burbs. Also the fact that you get far more house for the money.

In no way do I mean to imply they shouldn't be in the center city, just wondering if they would choose to be on average.

Most people I know that live in uptown don't have children, though I do have friends that live in Garden District with kids, and many I think would be considered "middle class" based on salary, they are the buyers of the efficiencies and little lofts! Someone making $45,000 a year can still qualify for, and get, a $200,000 - $250,000 loan. Whether they should might be a different issue.

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My gut feeling is that we will see a return to the center city of many jobs, and that the suburbs will fall out of focus with some employers.....certainly not all, but I think we will see an acceleration in downtown office development and a deceleration in suburban office development within 10 years.

Unfortunately for the middle-class, I don't think this will make living intown more affodable, unless we massively rehaul our zoning, to allow much greater density, and there is a philosophical shift in people that reverses the trend of ever increasing house sizes.

This second point many would say is impossible, but I'm slightly hopeful, as I belive many of my generation, who grew up in the burbs, are sick of it, and wish to raise a family in a urban environment......we'll start to see in about 8-10 years where these people chose to live when it's time for their kids to enter school.

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I know I spent more time meeting and playing with other children in the apartment complex where my parents lived, (as they saved up their down payment for an exurban home) than I did when they bought it and moved there.

I'm not married or have children, but moving to exurbia "for the sake of kids" doesn't wash with me, other than perhaps school quality. I cannot name a single person my age from the neighborhood of the exurban location, even though I lived there a decade.

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"society" has moved to the suburbs. It's been going on since the late 1940s, i.e 60 years and it doesn't show any signs of changing. Churches, schools, jobs, shopping, etc have all moved to the suburbs and further out and because of this, people feel "connected" there than in place like downtown Charlotte where there is very little of ths. Places to be entertained, museums, expensive restaurants, etc are places to visit but they don't meet the needs of day to day life. There are 5,000 proposed condos in the downtown area (including areas outside the loop) there are 100,000 homes proposed elsewhere in the metro.

I personlly don't see a return of jobs to the center citiess in these days of cost cutting. Unless there is a need for prestige space, businesses for the most part tend to avoid very high rent districts. Off shoring, flexable workplace, work from home programs, telecommuting, are forever going to change where businesses place workers. The idea that workers need to be concentrated in an office tower is old fashioned and will be replaced by a model that eliminates the one issue for most people who do live in the suburbs, commuting to work.

People are going to continue to live in confortable neighborhoods where they don't have to break the bank to live, have a lot of green space, don't have to put up with crime and seedy people, and have all their needs with in a few miles of where they live. This is what is going on in the Charlotte area and where it will continue to head for the forseeable future. The only way this might change would be for the city council to absolutely stop growth in some parts of the county and attempt to concentrate it in other areas. Since they have no political backbone to do this, I don't see it changing.

When the day comes where they build a new coin laundramat in downtown Charlotte, I might change my mind on this.

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I personlly don't see a return of jobs to the center citiess in these days of cost cutting. Unless there is a need for prestige space, businesses for the most part tend to avoid very high rent districts.

I think that is pretty much who is there now. Banks and lawyers -- both for the address. My mom works for a law firm in the corporate center. They were on Morehead and moved there when the tower was completed.

They had no qualms admitting it was because of the prestige and for their clients. Another friend is an attorney with one of the big firms and works in corporate finance, he says the banks they work for bacically insist they have their offices in the same building.

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Though they have been apparently slow to do so, I don't see why BofA and Wachovia couldn't put 1000s of their employees on a work from home for flexable workspace option.

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My uptown employer asked me when I was hired, if I'd like to work from home a few days a week. I actually chose to come in every day. I kind of like routine, and keeping work and home separate.

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It's always preferable to have an urban core that reflects society's overall diversity but most cities fail at that. I think Charlotte's Uptown is going to continue to be dominated by empty nesters and young professionals. Our CBD is also relatively small and there is not much room for people that fit other profiles and need the space that suburbia offers.

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