Charlotte Grows Weary of the Bland Cookie-Cutter Apartment Buildings
Reporting in the Charlotte Observer, Ely Portillo writes that a growing chorus of critics is taking the city of Charlotte to task for approving "a bland wave of construction." Urban designers, planners, and architects are calling for tighter standards to regulate the four- and five-story apartment buildings that are mostly indistinguishable from each other, and tend to lack the basic elements necessary for pedestrian friendly environments, including ground floor retail and restaurants.
Ken Szymanski of the Greater Charlotte Apartments Association argues that including amenities, such as ground floor commercial uses, into new apartment buildings will increase the cost. Those costs would be transferred to tenants in the form of higher rents.
“The cost for higher architecture will be higher,” Szymanski said. Putting a restaurant into an apartment building on the ground floor can require different construction skills and more attention to fire code requirements. “Everybody likes quality, but not everywhere can be high-end.”
Szymanski said ground-floor retail only works in the densest corridors.
“Mandating it is usually a recipe for failure,” he said.
In response to the wave of new development, Charlotte has begun a rewrite of its zoning code, but it likely won't be completed for four more years.