A Taste of Urbanism in Charlotte

Can a "munching tour" along "an auto-focused commercial strip of tattered, 1970s-era Americana 5 miles from downtown" Charlotte help redefine what "urbanism" in 21st-century America means for Mary Newsom?

Earlier this month, Newsome, associate director of urban and regional affairs at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, asked Tom Hanchett, a historian at Charlotte's Levine Museum of the New South, to lead Charlotte's first Jane Jacobs Walk, as an opportunity to prove his assertion that Charlotte's most urban corner is located in a "slice of bedraggled suburbia" at Central Avenue at Rosehaven Drive. 

While the built environment at this corner screams "unremarkable suburban sprawl," the variety of eclectic dining establishments featuring a range of global cuisines are at the "ground floor of a vast city economy." 

"What would Jane Jacobs say about all this?" opines Newsom. "Would she find the area too suburban for a respectable city? Or would she, like Hanchett, see a small but important piece of a city economy? In The Economy of Cities, Jacobs dissects how city wealth grows, how innovation builds on older innovation, and new work builds on existing work. This happens in cities because innovators and entrepreneurs come from all over, and then find each other, learn and do business together. That closeness is one of a city's most valuable qualities." 

"Jane Jacobs, I concluded, would have understood...Here, and at other corners like it, our city is absorbing newcomers, creating businesses and blending different cultures into a tasty urban suqaar - available to all who care to look for it."

Full Story: Global Cuisine and a Surprise “New” Urbanism

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