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Which NC city is the best planned?

   39 members have voted

  1. 1. Which NC city is the best planned?

    • Charlotte
      11
    • Raleigh
      1
    • Greensboro
      2
    • Durham
      0
    • Winston-Salem
      9
    • Asheville
      6
    • Wilmington
      2
    • Fayetteville
      0
    • High Point
      0
    • Chapel Hill
      6
    • Other
      2

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27 posts in this topic

It seems a lot of state forums are doing this, so let's take a look at our state, overall. What could the cities learn from each other?

Note that best planned does not mean biggest population, or prettiest skyline. Hopefully we won't see any of that. Best planned also does not mean best place to live or visit, so this is not a city vs city thread, in case you were under that impression.

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I honestly don't see any difference in urban planning of these cities. They are all sprawling out of control with shopping malls, strip malls, cul de sac housing, and in fact any growth is allowed no matter how bad. Walmart did not become the largest employer in NC by sticking to the rural areas.

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i voted for asheville... even though wilmington was a close second. of course, all these cities have their issues, but asheville has the best planned "downtown" area to me. in my experience it is probably the most vibrant pedestrian city in our state and they have done a wonderful job of restoring it's history as well as maintaining a mom & pop type business atmosphere. i do hate how the huge freeway seperates downtown asheville from the river... and would like to see better connectivity there. it would also be nice to see asheville begin to re-introduce the street car back on it's roads. then it truly would be like a small san francisco.

of course, of all the cities i've been to - the one that has the most similar layout/vibe would be toledo, spain. i haven't been to any other european countries, but i can see how asheville gets compared to other european cities.

i am a big fan of the old school grid layout that wilmington is made of. they have done a decent job of restoring some worthy old buildings... but as of my last visit (2 months ago) - there is much more to do in wilmington in terms of revitializing. the city has a lot of rustic grit... somewhere between charleston and new orleans.

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I honestly don't see any difference in urban planning of these cities. They are all sprawling out of control with shopping malls, strip malls, cul de sac housing, and in fact any growth is allowed no matter how bad. Walmart did not become the largest employer in NC by sticking to the rural areas.

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I voted Winston. If I got the meaning of the question right. In historical sense Winston seems to be more coherent and connected. I can only say that because most of the older structures remain and we can see the transitions from commercial to neighborhood. If the question was more tilted toward which city has the best grid then I don't know about that. I can't think of any NC city with a significant grid system. There aren't too many cities in the south that are grided. I could be wrong but I can olny think of Savanna that has a proper street grid layout. Any others I'm missing.

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I voted for Winston mostly because I see less of what I don't like in new developments here than I do in other cities. New resedential developments are encouraged to interconnect with old, commercial development now has strict standards to meet, the traffic department does a good job of upgrading roads and dealing with issues. Also, a large portion of our Historical past has been saved. (of course, I keep up with the planning boards developments religiously. So, I am most informed on W-S)

IMO, of the list presented... (and I know there will be feedback)

Charlotte #6 has grown to fast to be planned well. Much of the past has been lost.

Raleigh #9 also has 'explosive growth' syndrome. Also, values the car way too much.. I was noticing the lack of sidewalks and inane traffic planning as I was working there this week. A traffic nightmare.

Greensboro #4 too much strip growth. Downtown has done well as of late, but that has been a national trend. Too many run down commercial districts.

Durham #3 see my Greensboro explanation plus traffic headaches.

Winston-Salem #1 Needs to promote growth east of US 52. Much antiquated industrial space that needs to be razed or retasked. Has some ambitious plans but needs to be careful, building permits are still increasing here... the city already has more land area than Philadelphia.

Asheville #2 has some commercial districts to revive, downtown has done well for some time. Needs to protect against ridge development and poor construction on hillsides.

Wilmington #8 will turn into 'Sprawl-eigh' by the sea. Out of control residential construction in this city and metro. Distressed commercial districts being abandoned for newer strip districts. Weak transportation network in the area as traffic shows. A mess in the making (sorry, I luv the town though!)

Fayetteville #5 too many distressed commercial corridors. Needs to work on reviving these areas.

High Point #7 challenging. Presented with potentially millions of square feet of soon to be unused furniture showroom space on top of marginal commercial districts.

Chapel Hill nice town, not as familiar with it and not sure if it can be compared with the others on this list.... based on size, would Cary or Gastonia have been beter choices?? (just IMO)

I ranked these just based on my observations... almost every city has things I enjoy but they all have things they can improve on. Planning also reaches way beyond the visible, to things I may not be able to recognize in other cities (utilities, health, education, recreation, etc.)

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Chapel Hill is my number one. Most of their sprawl isn't apart of the city (Chatham County). The area is very walkable and pedestrian friendly. Strict zoning within Chapel Hill and Orange County also make Chapel Hill stay within in its constraints giving it a good compromise with cars and pedestrians. When lightrail becomes a reality in the future (distant future) the gap will widen futher.

At the bottom of my list I have to put Fayetteville. The spawl there is outrageous and poorly planned. It easily spans into most of Cumberland counties neighbors, just drive up 401 in any direction and you'll see what i mean. Fayetteville's poorly planned sprawl spans far out similar to Charlotte. Also the multiple 7-9 lane (3-4 lanes on each side with a turning lane) roads with no sidewalks or pedestrian activity. Pedestrians don't stand a chance out there.

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Chapel Hill is not without problems of its own. Height restrictions, a linear downtown corridor, among other things. The lack of big box chain stores is great though.

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Chapel Hill nice town, not as familiar with it and not sure if it can be compared with the others on this list.... based on size, would Cary or Gastonia have been beter choices?? (just IMO)

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I voted for Winston-Salem. There is just something about that city that really appeals to me. I like the hills, the history, and the character of the city. It has a certain presence that I have not felt in any other NC big city. Asheville and Wilmington are nice too but just in a different league. I don't care for Raleigh, Durham, or Greensboro.

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Chapel Hill nice town, not as familiar with it and not sure if it can be compared with the others on this list.... based on size, would Cary or Gastonia have been beter choices?? (just IMO)

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I guess I'm basing this on population stats... Chapel Hill seemed out of place with the other cities on the list... it's population is at least 35-50K less than the other cities on the list is why I was questioning it's inclusion in the poll... Gastonia and Cary are much closer in population to the other cities.

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Do you think Cary would win? That's why it's not on. Gastonia probably should be...

Chapel Hill has a substantial population when you count UNC and Carrboro with it. That's getting close to 90,000.

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No, I don't think Cary would 'win' at all, in fact I would rate it lower than Raleigh. I don't think you can count Carrboro for Chapel Hill, it just seems that Chapel Hill is more of a different entity (for the better, trust me) than the other cities.

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Um, who voted for Charlotte? :unsure: The good planning of the last few years in Charlotte is to correct the awful planning on the past 40. Raleigh is probably worse--didn't get the nickname "Sprawleigh" for nothing. Transit will help a lot with Charlotte (if the tax is kept), esp as Mecklenburg fills up. Wake Co has tons of open land that could be gobbled up in the next 20 years if things keep going the way they are--esp no transit.

I voted for Chapel Hill/Carrboro (yes, they function as one). They have the most progressive planning policies among the choices. The APFO keeps growth manageable, and preserves lots of rural, open space in the county. Sure it may have it's downsides--housing prices and a slow growth mentality--but the positives outweigh the negatives. Also the free-fare bus system is a very attractive amenity, unmatched by other cities.

Asheville & Winston are my runers up.

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Chapel Hill's population may be 48,000 but just head south outside the city on US 15-501 or Mt Carmel Rd. These areas in Chatham County are growing rapidly in the pattern of many other areas of high sprawl throughout the state. Developers are licking their chops at this area just outside the city and county. (Orange County is equally hard on poor planning) Chapel Hill's smart growth planning policies are the reason for this.

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A very tricky question to answer.

Best traditional urbanity?

A combination of which cities were biggest near or soon after the turn of the 20th century and lack of damage done to downtowns through highway-building and urban renewal. Winston probably wins on pure urban fabric and walkable, livable blocks- Business 40 did only minor damage because it is in a cut downtown. Asheville was poorest during the Depression, so it has the best urban building stock within a relatively tight downtown area. Durham has a broad street grid, but miserable traffic planning in downtown Durham has caused lots of damage to the city. Charlotte's freeway ring around the urban core was a huge mistake. Raleigh's urban grid seems smaller and overly occupied by State offices.

Best growth management over the last 20-30 years?

Chapel Hill/Carrboro/Orange County. The refusal to extend sewer lines has effectively made Chapel Hill/Carrboro very compact communities. An active movement against density has also made housing prices soar, though. In this department, Raleigh, Charlotte, and Greensboro did not show up.

Best growth management looking forward?

Durham has a good plan, but the Council doesn't stick to it. Raleigh has a mediocre plan, and the Council may not even know it exists. (see Center, Soleil) Greensboro has never heard of growth management, and if they had, their downtown would be twice as vibrant as it is starting to become today. Charlotte, with its transit corridors program directing growth along those lines, gets the prize. It has a big idea, and if the transit tax survives, implementation will be THE big idea in urban planning in NC for the next 20 years; nothing else comes close.

Best landscaped berms on arterial streets for visual appeal from behind an automobile windshield?

Cary. Nobody else is even close. Landscaped berms are like catnip for those town-rating people from Sperling's and Money magazine who make the lists, and lists are what Cary does best.

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Chapel Hill is my number one. Most of their sprawl isn't apart of the city (Chatham County).

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Generally, I think Chapel Hill & Carrboro are handling planning better than most, but it's definitely no utopia. I think your point really deserves a second look:

Chatham isn't always thrilled about that growth leap-frogging the county line (from Wake or from Orange), and there are some contentious pro- and anti-factions that have sprung up there, and the big developments creeping down 15-501 are the primary reason.

The surge into Chatham - beyond Chapel Hill's self-imposed rural buffer - says something about just how urgent the affordable housing issue is in Chapel Hill. The most recent stats I've seen are a few years out of date, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 60%-65% of people working in town can't afford to live there, and are commuting in from Chatham, Durham, Alamance and Wake Counties (I know people driving in from all 4 counties). I think this could undercut a lot of the environmental progress and good planning the towns have done. CH/Carrboro do a phenomenal job of sloughing off their working class (what there is left of it) into neighboring counties. I think that a one-time nudge of that rural buffer outwards (1 mile? 1/2 mile?), while maintaining all other standards, could - in theory at least - expand housing options, still maintain the quality planning the town is known for, and would keep the over-the-line sprawl (and long, smog-ifying commutes) from spreading any more than they already have.

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The sad thing about Raleigh is that it started out pretty dang good on planning. The original street grid built around the capital, with well-defined borders based on a certain number of streets was really well-done. Alas, the 20th century came...and the car...and the suburban sprawl that erupted from all that was just amazingly bad. It's like they completely forgot what made the city so well-laid out to begin with.

For Winston-Salem, let us not forget that prior to 1913, they were separate cities. Salem was arguably the better-planned of the two. To this day, you can see the compact, highly-dense, layout of Salem well-preserved. It is pretty impressive.

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^

That's the legacy in several cities: Raleigh, Charlotte, Wilmington, and a few smaller cities like Salisbury all started out with a well-planned grid system, and some of the first "suburbs" (I'm thinking of Dilworth, Plaza, Elizabeth, Myers Park, Wilmore in Charlotte) departed from that grid, but were still very naturally well-integrated. Salisbury still retains a very tight grid through a lot of the city; it hasn't grown much post-WWII, but as they are the 1/2way point between 2 big metros, things will start to pick up there and I hope they realize how unique they are (or could be) in that regard.

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I think Chapel Hill and Winston are well planned. Chapel Hill has guidelines which prevent alot of sprawl and the city has managed to keep its college town atmosphere. Winston-Salem has a nice grid system in the downtown area so its easier to get around and there doesnt seem to be as much sprawl as in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham. And at the same time Winston-Salem has managed to create an urban environment

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I really like Wilmington's grid by the river. It definitely gets points for its natural setting, but heading out towards the beaches the sprawl is as bad as anywhere else.

Asheville, in my opinion, has the best downtown area in the state, but I think it'd be a lot cooler if it had been built up to the French Broad River and if the University was integrated into the urban area.

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Winston-Salem has a nice grid system in the downtown area so its easier to get around and there doesnt seem to be as much sprawl as in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham.

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