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monsoon

What should happen to Charlotte's Vast 2nd ring suburbs

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This topic is about Charlotte's second ring suburbs. The question is this is a vast area relatively near the center city but built mostly with the automobile in mind. I am talking about houses built from 1950 - 1980 and that mostly follow Charlotte 4. Neighborhoods like Montclaire, Starmount, Sherwood Forest, Kilbourne Acres, Hampshire Hills, Country Club Acres, Myers Park Manor are examples of what I am talking about. This would be the typical Charlotte brick ranch house built on a 1/4 acre lot. These neighborhoods were built mostly before the cul-de-sac subdivision trend that took hold in the the 1980s and which mostly make up suburbs further out. Over the decades the 2nd ring neighborhoods have had varying degrees of decline or rise depending up what part of the city they were built in.

So this topic is focused on whether there are any opportunities to re-develop these neighborhoods into something more sustainable without the over gentrification that has taken place in the first ring suburbs? What do you think?

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i think the arguement would be that these neighborhoods, by virtue of structural quality, location and street connectivity are in better shape and more sustainable than the outer ring cul de sac neighborhoods. in many ways, these homes are ideal. they are not a drag on energy bills because they arent huge, residents are centrally located and dont have to drive as far to reach destinations, schools are often pretty well integrated and lot sizes are small with great tree canopy. In addition they are better served by transit.

However, my 2 cents as to making them more sustainable would be the integration of limited retail so that a corner store or ice cream shop could be accessed by sidewalk or bike. These neighborhoods all grew at a time when Charlotte was made up of strip retail corridors backed by huge housing developments. If you live within a quarter mile of say, South Blvd, you can access stores there. In other instances, it may be a mile or more to the nearest place of business.

edit: by the way, good topic

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I agree that the fact that property values are already on the upswing will make it difficult to vastly redevelop these areas....a $230k house on 1/4 acres = roughly $1M an acre when demolition and grading is taken into account. This is what vacant land cost in much closer in neighborhoods (Sedgfield, Commonwealth/Morningside, Wesley Heights, NoDA) so I suspect we will see all the alrady vacant parcels in those nieghborhoods be developed before we see large scale single-family replacement with higher intensity uses.

I suggest leaving them alone for the most part to naturally evolve, but I do support the city rezoning all the throughfares that bound these neighborhoods to a PED type zoning. This would allow mixed use development with height limits based on the proximity to single family. The hope would be that many neighborhood conveninece stores would be added, and could be profitable based on the existing adjacent neighborhoods population, and the next high-density housing built above the stores.

For example, Randolph, Rama, Sardis, Monroe, and Sharon Amity would all be completely built up in an urban fashion with 2-4 stories of residential above professional offices and retail. Therefore the residents of Sherwood Forest and the neighborhood on the otherside of the RR track would never need to venture out onto the thoroughfares, reducing the traffic resulting from retail trips significantly.

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Great topic. Many of the suburbs mentioned here aren't really gentrifying. They aren't undergoing a massive racial transition or income transition--I don't think (I could be wrong). Plus, some of them really never hit rock bottom while many of them have remained quite stable over the years.

The biggest trouble spots might be Derita, Mineral Springs, Hidden Valley, Shamrock and the inner-ring suburbs off Wilkerson and Freedom. I don't have a lot of answers about what to do with them. The schools are not particularly good. Crime rates are typically higher than in the rest of the community. The built environment is not inspiring, and the supply of god-awful 1970s apartment complexes is a major check on redevelopment.

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While I'm not a big fan of the architecture of that period, I think they have proven to be good options for childless people who want slightly more space, but not the outrageous space provided in the newer burbs. They also have very good access to older retail, transit, and surface roads to major employment areas.

However, the city and state should not abandon those areas for transportation improvements. They should pursue continued improvements to thoroughfares, upgrades of farm-to-market roads to city standards (especially in east Charlotte and Derita areas), and preservation and purchase of rights of way to undo any connectivity mistakes.

My own theory is that uptown growth pulls more from the middle ring than the distant, 485 and beyond exurbs or towns. The suburban minded people will keep moving outward, like to Union, while the urban minded people keep moving inward. The middle ring is becoming the lower cost place, which is great for people trying to establish their lives, but will be at risk from the social problems of the people that have ruined their lives. It seems that the South Charlotte middle ring is drawing the former, while East, West, and North middle ring is tending to draw the latter. So economic and social demographics are stable in the South, but hurting in the other three.

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I'm in agreement with the camp that supports defining the main streets for these middle ring neighborhoods and building them up with mixed use development - bringing small shops and food within walking (or a short bike ride) distance to the existing housing stock such that they would not have to cross a major thoroughfare.

Take for example what's happening to Fairview Rd and Park Rd south of Woodlawn - while not ideal from a traffic management point of view right now, the main-street facing edges of the Barclay Downs, Montclaire, Madison Park have condo/multifamily/retail/food development of varying quality and success (there's a Harris Teeter anchored shopping center pretty much every mile down Park Rd. between downtown and HW 51.) - this increases density along the transportation corridors while providing short-distance/car-free errand running to the people back in the neighborhoods.

The downside of most of the development so far has been that it has been car based strip shopping centers not incorporating residential or transit. Cotswold Mall, Park Rd. Shopping Center, Park/Selwyn to name a few - all car dependent.

Also, once you get back into most of those neighborhoods there are no sidewalks - this could be a mental block for people wanting to travel the 1/4 to 1/2 mile to these shopping centers.

Summary - define the major streets that form the boundaries of the middle ring neighborhoods - in the South for instance - Sharon Amity, Randolph, Providence, Park, Fairview, HW51 and make the zoning for the adjacent 1/8 mile such that any new development would have be mixed use.

The condos/townhomes mixed with the development would have to be priced competitively with the housing stock in these neighborhoods, which is rather inexpensive currently ($90 psf for the house I bought out in the middle ring for instance) so there isn't currently an incentive for the developers to pursue it without forced zoning.

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The middle ring is becoming the lower cost place, which is great for people trying to establish their lives, but will be at risk from the social problems of the people that have ruined their lives.

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The people I know in Starmount and Montclaire love the retro feel of their homes and the extra space. I think a lot of residents are banking on light rail to lift their property values higher. Country Club has gotten more popular since it's adjacent to Plaza Midwood and people that are priced out of PM can still live in the same general area without paying that hood's prices. Creative Loafing did a cover story last year about all the great "hidden" neighborhoods that can be found in the inner rings. But overall, it seems the majority of the older neighborhoods of East Charlotte bordering Central and Eastway are stagnating or going downhill. I don't see the "Plaza Midwood Miracle' spreading down Central or any redevelopment or mixed use going in until the crime rate is brought under better control and Eastland is turned around. Starmount and Montclaire have sections of stability but the neighborhoods are fragile overall and could still go either way I think.

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The 1970s neighborhoods south and north of Eastland are definately in need of attention. You could draw a large triangle using Independence on the south, WT Harris on the east, and Tryon on the north, and that whole part of town except for PM and NODA is stagnating. This is where the CrimeInCharlotte blog reports a lot of it's gang activity. It's spread all around, not just the westside.

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The 1970s neighborhoods south and north of Eastland are definately in need of attention. You could draw a large triangle using Independence on the south, WT Harris on the east, and Tryon on the north, and that whole part of town except for PM and NODA is stagnating. This is where the CrimeInCharlotte blog reports a lot of it's gang activity. It's spread all around, not just the westside.

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I think you're being a little far-encompassing with that assessment. I live in Country Club Heights between Plaza Midwood and Eastway. Now, I'll freely admit that I eye Eastway with concern but this neighborhood seems to be doing well. Homes turn quickly when they go on the market. Homes that are selling are not going to rentals but rather live-in owners. The prices of homes are reasonable but appreciating nicely.

I think this area is great for people who want to be close to uptown but are priced out of the Plaza Midwood/Noda/Chantilly markets.

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Country Club Hills is a fascinating neighborhood for this topic. I used to rent a house on Dunlavin Way in 1986. I walked through there recently and I was struck by how little it has changed in the 20 years that has passed since then especially considering the decline that has taken place on Eastway Drive during the same period.

For the purposes of this topic the question that comes to mind, is if there was a street car that went near that neighborhood, would it be worthwhile to redevelop it into denser housing so more people could live in the same land and make better use of the transit system? Could this even happen? Or is CCHs an example of pretty much an area that is stuck in 1960s automobile development and it, like much of the 2nd ring, doesn't have a chance of developing into something more sustainable. (given how little mass transit is being built)

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Country Club Hills is a fascinating neighborhood for this topic. I used to rent a house on Dunlavin Way in 1986. I walked through there recently and I was struck by how little it has changed in the 20 years that has passed since then especially considering the decline that has taken place on Eastway Drive during the same period.

For the purposes of this topic the question that comes to mind, is if there was a street car that went near that neighborhood, would it be worthwhile to redevelop it into denser housing so more people could live in the same land and make better use of the transit system? Could this even happen? Or is CCHs an example of pretty much an area that is stuck in 1960s automobile development and it, like much of the 2nd ring, doesn't have a chance of developing into something more sustainable. (given how little mass transit is being built)

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This is just slightly off-topic, but it's a question that's bothered me: What is the real name for the kinds of houses that make up the second ring? The simple, rectangular, one-story, (usually) brick ones with little or no porch. I've heard them called "ranch" homes a lot, and I can see the resemblance but they don't seem like real ranches to me. Is there a specific word for these, or are they simply a variation on the ranch concept?

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This is just slightly off-topic, but it's a question that's bothered me: What is the real name for the kinds of houses that make up the second ring? The simple, rectangular, one-story, (usually) brick ones with little or no porch. I've heard them called "ranch" homes a lot, and I can see the resemblance but they don't seem like real ranches to me. Is there a specific word for these, or are they simply a variation on the ranch concept?

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The ranch that I lived in on Dunlavin Way was one of these types. Brick, 1 bathroom, knotty pine paneling, and hardwood floors. This house while only about 1000 sq/ft was very well built compared to houses being put up today. It badly needed some updating as there was no provision for a clothes dryer which were pretty unknown when this house was constructed in 1961 but it was on a nice flat lot and very convenient to everything. This style of construction was widely used in Charlotte probably up until the mid-1970s when high inflation and high mortgage rates changed the ways builders had to construct a house.

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The ranch that I lived in on Dunlavin Way was one of these types. Brick, 1 bathroom, knotty pine paneling, and hardwood floors. This house while only about 1000 sq/ft was very well built compared to houses being put up today. It badly needed some updating as there was no provision for a clothes dryer which were pretty unknown when this house was constructed in 1961 but it was on a nice flat lot and very convenient to everything. This style of construction was widely used in Charlotte probably up until the mid-1970s when high inflation and high mortgage rates changed the ways builders had to construct a house.

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Great topic. Finally got me to register to post after lurking for quite sometime. As a resident of one of these middle ring neighborhoods, I'd love to see things like the little sugar creek greenway construction sped up. Near my house, efforts are being made to connect the neighborhood streets to future light rail stations, but those streetscape/pedestrian improvements aren't making it very far.

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Charlotte does have a thick stock of single story brick starter homes. They can be rather mundane, but at least they're built with real materials. A friend of mine has a mid-80s house built with that "pressed cardboard" stuff for siding, which he's already replaced. (Mold and algae loves it.)

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With the stock of 'starter' homes in the middle ring, I would like to see the creation of brand new starter home communities be completely halted by all municipalities in the county. Those new starter home developments are not sustainable for the tax rolls, costing more for the utilities and infrastructure than they will bring in. They also tend to be where developers cut so many corners that the results do not last, and create very negative long term outlook.

If the older buildings were left to be the inventory stock for the starter market, then the families and individuals that build their lives up can then work to build their homes up. Little by little as their economic conditions improve, little improvements can be made. Then, at the point where families grow, they can then make the choice to expand their homes through major renovations, or sell to other starting families and move to a larger home.

If the city, (Charlotte is particular bad on this), continue to allow new starter developers farther out, then the markets and economics won't be there to sustain the middle ring.

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One thing I observed last night browsing POLARIS, was that it's easy to tell the age of a plat from bird's eye.

Very early (pre Depression era) plats have 50 foot wide frontage and were pretty regular. In those days, people wanted to live close in, and preferred tighter walkable communities.

1950s-1980s plats are more haphazard. Streets wind around in unpredictable ways, and the depth and width of lots vary. I suppose builders were in more of a hurry to get done and move to the next subdivision. There was lots of land to work with in those days... right?

1990s plats to now, are much more uniform. The developers probably had the ability by this point, to grade the whole thing, and extract maximum land value by packing the units on there. It's also more obvious in satellite mode... you don't see many trees. :sick:

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Great topic. Dunlavin Way sure seems to be a popular spot, at least on this thread. We moved there in Aug 2006 and bought from a woman who had lived there since 1975. I think this trend will be one that should pick up pace in certain 2nd ring neighborhoods in Charlotte -- elderly who have lived in one place for so long moving out and young families moving in. I would hope that as more and more new faces move in, that the character of these older neighborhoods are not lost along the way.

On another note re: neighborhoods along Central Ave between Eastway and Eastland Mall. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is celebrating their 150th year since foundation. Nation wide, there are all sorts of redevelopment projects and studies going on throughout the course of 2007. This stretch of Central was awarded a grant for study as to how Charlotte can not loose sight of this incredibly socially diverse area. It will be interesting to see how this study forms and what they will specifically decide to put their efforts toward. (the following is quoted from the AIA Charlotte webpage)...

In 2007, the members of the American Institute of Architects mark the AIA

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