Category: Observations

Day 1: Observations

There are places in Charlotte far more interesting than 3rd St. Convention and Archdale. But they are still places that thousands experience every day, and so perhaps that makes them worthy of study. I can tell Charlotte feels as small as Chapel Hill because I saw people riding LYNX on my trip back to Uptown who rode south with me. One carried a bag of groceries from Dollar Tree. The transit-dependent use LYNX in Charlotte, you just have to go south of South End to recognize this.

At 3rd St., I rode past a group of people whom Jan Gehl would describe as a “social activity” in Life Between Buildings. “He ain’t tryin’ to cuff me, nigga” a white woman standing among a group of all Black men said audibly enough for any passerby to hear. The suits kept their headphones in. I wonder what Gehl has to say about the meaning of public life in a world in which we can be mentally removed from a space while listening to an album or podcast.

I think the process I used to choose stations is ultimately flawed. Based on passive observation, there is clearly more public life unfolding in South End (namely at East/West, New Bern, and Bland). On first impression, 3rd Street is not a place I would want to spend very much time. In a way, it reminded me of a mini-version of where I transferred on the El in Chicago (Randolph/Wabash?). Lots of folks crammed on a platform, suspended above a busy street, peering at their smartphones. But I saw very few POC there, and I was one of very few white people boarding at Archdale.

Archdale resembles every gridded, arterial-centered single-family neighborhood I’ve ever seen in the American South. A place of manicured lawns, speeding yellow school buses, and garden apartments. It is very clearly a more culturally diverse place than South End, transit-dependent folks waiting on buses, Latin American restaurants. There was also a man sitting under one of the flyover columns, guitar in hand (not playing), who was there when I departed to explore and boarded again (3:45-5:00; 90 minutes?) After visiting Ashford Place (apartment complex ¼ mile walk from front to station, I’m curious how much foot traffic I’ll observe at morning rush hour from that direction. There, children on their way to play pick-up soccer, and a blind man walking along the edge of the curvilinear street into the complex (that would be a cumbersome walk for a blind person to make daily). Altogether, the most typical garden apartment complex, clearly built before LRT anticipated (true of all development at Archdale). Most noteable from the perspective of built environment/human use was crossing mid-block, mostly observed on Old Pineville in front of bus depot and on Archdale across planted median.  I will go after dark settles, but I’m not looking forward to it after reading this message board.

Uptown Charlotte is one way streets and chain restaurants that don’t resemble sprawl’s version of similar institutions. “The Green” is chock full of literary motifs and a sign showing where the nearest Charlottes are (1100 miles to Charlotte, Maine). Its fountain was the site of the most public life I saw today, social activity and silly interactions (*which fountain spout will squirt the tourists unexpectedly?) 3rd Street is immediately bordered by surface parking lot, an empty green lot (potential), a 4 lane separated one-way (so many 1 way streets!), and the Hilton. At 3rd Street, I am very curious to know if folks commuting to South End will recognize one another or will continue to peer at their phones. Station area is half contained under the Hilton, and half “covered” by artistic green and orange pieces. Probably provide as much refuge as bus shelter on DeKalb and Wilson did that night in Brooklyn. Immediately considered that elevation of station is the most clear limitation to public life here.

Bike ride this morning started in NoDa along Davidson Street. Howie Acres Park united two streets that otherwise end, only one curb ADA compliant. This neighborhood will likely see more change than Archdale did with light rail. Steel Gardens Apartments will be sought after once light rail arrives. Great street grid with neighborhood life even at 2pm on a Monday. “From the 100s” yet all of these listings are 250+. Asked a man commuting by bike to his job at Harris Teeter for directions. Neighborhood signs in Villa Heights were a wonderful wayfinding investment.

Conclusion: Cities are legible without smartphones.