The Heart and the Hub: Multi-scalar Interventions in
Authors: Hannah Smith, Syeda Zaman, Devon Stokey, DaeJane Richardson
Institution: North Carolina State University
Instructor: Kofi Boone
Research Assistant: Dong-Jae Yi
Studio: Charlotte West Boulevard: Envisioning an Equitable District; Graduate Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Spring 2021
This project takes a holistic approach to design interventions within Charlotte, North Carolina. Ranging from larger equitable mobility plans along West Boulevard to individual nodes such as an existing shopping center called City West Commons, this study area has historically seen a rise in economic development around industrial and transportation industries. West Boulevard is facing developmental pressure associated with rapid growth in the city’s uptown and the proposed Light Rail Transit station, especially as a historically Black community. This project explores City West Commons as a heart of the West Boulevard area by creating a green neighborhood center that serves a larger equitable transit oriented development plan through Green New Deal principles. Major goals associated with these plans include expanding access to multi-modal transportation, repurposing vacant and brownfield sites, increasing affordable housing, and giving greater access to the area’s cultural identity and local importance. All these ideas blend and connect through an extended greenway system. This system creates safe, green pedestrian pathways that bind this community together, and integrates different purposes than just a nature walk. Walking along this greenway would bring together West Boulevard’s opportunities for job creation and decarbonization measures with walkable access to the transit station and businesses along the corridor. With City West Commons as a major node within this greenway system, a space for cultural identity and reconnection to the community’s history emerges and emphasizes the place that community members have woven into the fabric of Charlotte over decades of time.
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.