Help Charlotte map out where growth is going – CONNECT News

Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute has a less conflict-oriented answer to whether a big-box pharmacy should be built on the border of an influential neighborhood: Plan the growth first.

“Growth has always been something people fight about,” says McMahon, senior resident fellow at ULI Washington.

“But when you sit down with a map and talk about where you should put things, you find out there is a lot of agreement,” he says.

To help Charlotte regional leaders decide where the growth should go, 400 leaders and others in the region will gather June 4 at the Charlotte Convention Center for RealityCheck2050. The SimCity-type of community-planning event will involve “developing” the 14-county area using Lego blocks on a map of the region.

Teams formed around 10 tables of maps will place the yellow and red Legos in areas they believe make the most sense for jobs and housing. Colorful string represents roads and light-rail lines.

McMahon will speak at the daylong event, which will produce planning recommendations for the region.

The idea is to develop options for regional growth. In the process of that planning, two primary goals are to improve the quality of life here and to control the cost of government, says Jim Prosser, executive director of the Centralina Council of Governments, which is coordinating the event with ULI Charlotte.

Forecasts show the 14-county area’s population will double to more than 4 million residents during the next 40 years. That makes planning particularly important for the Charlotte region.

“This is planning and building for our children and grandchildren,” Prosser says. For that and other reasons, the June event will include a “youth table” so young people can experience the process.

The Urban Land Institute has conducted the exercise in 15 growing communities since 2005.

RealityCheck2050 has already had some successes, McMahon says. For example, Washington discovered that the best places for mixed-use projects that include high-density residential components were sites now occupied by strip shopping centers near Metro stations.

Participants have until May 10 to complete an online application to participate in the event in Charlotte. Sign up through an online application at

On the day of the event, participants should expect about seven hours of presentations, planning and Lego block stacking.

To make sure the results are shared with the largest number of local residents and decision makers, the Centralina Council of Governments and ULI Charlotte will conduct 16 days of community workshops from August to October.

By Ken Elkins, Staff Reporter with the Carlotte Business Journal