The Parker District : A Case for Permaculture Principles as Urban Design Solutions
Authors: Angela Kealey Rainey, Avery Barlett-Golden, Julia Needham
Institution: North Carolina State University
Instructor: Kofi Boone
Studio: Charlotte West Boulevard: Envisioning an Equitable District; Graduate Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning; Spring 2021
The West Boulevard neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, has a history of resilience in the face of systemic discrimination. Today, this primarily Black neighborhood faces disproportionately high unemployment rates and health problems. Key articulated goals include pedestrian safety, fresh food access, natural feature preservation, and displacement prevention. With Transit Oriented Development planned around two future rail stops, it is essential to prioritize West Boulevard residents who are most vulnerable to displacement.
Therefore, we created an Equitable Food and Transit Oriented Development model. Food and land sovereignty have already taken root through the establishment of an urban farm, community land trust, and future food cooperative. Our design amplifies existing community efforts. Around the Parker District, we drew inspiration from permaculture principles to solve urban design challenges. With closed-loop food systems, we can magnify the community’s self-sufficiency ethos, while the graduated zones of intensity in permaculture translate into a polycentric urban fabric, fashioning a network of neighborhood hubs. Innovative strategies, such as nutrient recovery plants and rooftop greenhouses, align food production with the Green New Deal. Our scheme includes quality job creation, celebration of local culture, and carbon-free connectivity.
Pairing policy change with symbiotic regional systems will push the needle towards a sustainable and equitable city. Our proposals for regional systems change include allocating Community Land Trust property throughout the city, establishing a carbon-offsetting nature preserve, creating a Black Cultural Heritage Trail, and financing citywide composting. Sustainable design and equitable policy must work in tandem to produce positive lasting change.
Charlotte West Boulevard: Envisioning an Equitable District
Working in collaboration with a range of community stakeholders and City agencies, interdisciplinary teams of landscape architecture and architecture students developed Green New Deal informed visions of neighborhood change in the West Boulevard community of Charlotte, NC, USA. West Boulevard is an historically Black community and was the home of some of the earliest Black landowners and institutions in Charlotte after the American Civil War. The community has borne the burden of industrial land uses and contamination. It has resisted displacement throughout the 20th century and is now faced with development pressure associated with rapid growth in nearby Uptown. West Boulevard has worked collaboratively with the City of Charlotte for years and have articulated their own vision of community change including important environmental justice imperatives. However, that vision did not address the challenges of decarbonization and the need for job creation as components of a growing community. The City of Charlotte recently unveiled its citywide Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) and was interested in opportunities to address decarbonization strategies at the neighborhood scale. Additionally, a recently proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) station area in the community offered the opportunity to explore the potential to address mobility inequity in the neighborhood.
The studio worked with community stakeholders and City agencies to translate community visions into alternative scenarios that could be used to evaluate the jobs, justice, and decarbonization potential of their current development ideas. The scenarios addressed site, neighborhood and regional policy imperatives associated with the Green New Deal and were presented to community stakeholders and City of Charlotte agencies as a part of the studio.
The studio work presented represents two (2) general studio approaches: Adapting in Place-Growing a green neighborhood center (Approximately 4 acres): in this project, students developed urban design strategies visualizing how the West End Commons could grow and expand in accordance with the principles of the Green New Deal. This project focused on retention and reuse of existing infrastructure and envisioning the programs and uses proposed in the recent market analysis conducted for the study area. Students conducted baseline assessments of the existing context, generated alternatives, and evaluated how alternatives compared with regards to decarbonization, justice, and jobs. Leveraging Transit-envisioning an equitable district (Approximately 100 acres): in this project, students developed vision plans showing how the planned LRT station in the area could enable equitable development including affordable housing, local food systems, and other compatible uses. For the purposes of this project, students used existing station area planning assumptions to do a baseline assessment in the context of the principles of the Green New Deal. Students generated alternative plans and evaluated how alternatives compared with regards to decarbonization, justice, and jobs.