October 9, 2019

Nicknamed “The Queen City,” Charlotte, North Carolina, is growing fast. In fact, it’s predicted that by the year 2030, Charlotte will have an additional 400,000 residents, and recently released U.S. Census figures show growth in almost all of the towns and cities in the Greater Charlotte region. With this in mind, our Charlotte Transportation team began seeking ways in which we could offer both current and future clients an opportunity to have a focused yet informal discussion about topics we know are important to their organizations, as well as the region as a whole, as they relate to Charlotte’s significant growth.

After putting our thinking caps on, we determined that we could facilitate a more intimate dialogue with decision-makers and industry leaders via a casual workshop setting and began brainstorming topics we felt were of interest to the region. Once we realized that our desire to collaborate with our clients to discuss community-focused solutions aligned with Gresham Smith’s newly launched brand strategy and promise of Genuine Ingenuity then: voilà! we knew we had the perfect name for our new workshop series.

In this post, I take a look at these special lunch & learn opportunities that feature a guest speaker, a Gresham Smith Practice Leader in their market, and colleagues and peers from across the Charlotte area who are ready for a genuine and relaxed discussion on issues that are critical to continued and effective growth management in the region.



Discussing What’s on Everyone’s Mind

The first of our Genuine Ingenuity workshops featured Transportation Research Board’s Chuck Fuhs and Gresham Smith’s Area Transportation Leader Andy Lucyshyn in a dialogue with industry leaders—including attendees from Charlotte Department of Transportation, Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, Centralina Council of Governments, Charlotte Area Transit System and the Town of Huntersville, North Carolina—as well as members of our Charlotte Transportation group.

As transportation projects that increase street connectivity, improve safety, and tackle growth and congestion are continually needed in the area, both Chuck and Andy offered their expertise and insight across a wide range of mobility management issues in this inaugural workshop.

After discussing key transportation projects, both past and present, as well as lessons learned, the group white-boarded ideas for addressing emerging opportunities and challenges in the region. Through this exploration, we found that participants from the public sector, who can become a little siloed in their day-to-day operations, especially enjoyed having an informal platform to discuss the same “pros and cons” that are on everyone’s mind when it comes to managing rapid growth.



Understanding Trends in Mobility

Across the United States, there is increased pressure for communities to engage in sustainable transportation infrastructure development. Exploring alternatives to traditional planning and design can act as a catalyst for wider urban development while helping attract and retain businesses and private investment to cities. And that was just the topic that Rob Spillar, City of Austin’s Transportation Director, and Mike Sewell, Gresham Smith’s Active Transportation Service Line Leader, examined in our second Genuine Ingenuity workshop.

With a focus on emerging trends in mobility and their impacts on economic growth, Rob and Mike looked at some opportunities and challenges associated with creating healthy communities through transportation and design. Lessons learned from projects in Austin, Texas, which is comparable to Charlotte in terms of demographics and growth, were also discussed. As with the first workshop, we kept presentation formalities from our guest speakers to a minimum, making sure that the majority of the hour-and-a-half session was reserved for a dialogue among attendees.



Where Land Use Meets Transportation

In our upcoming November workshop, guest speaker Matthew Clarke, Director of Creative Placemaking at the Trust for Public Land, will be joined by Gresham Smith Senior Landscape Architect Louis Johnson to discuss the intersection of land-use planning and transportation. The workshop will also focus on challenges and opportunities, this time associated with increasing access to parks, and specifically, the subject of 10-minute access to public space in the Charlotte area. Both Matthew and Louis will explore how this goal is possible from both a land-use planning and transportation perspective, along with a larger discussion around what access looks like through the public-space components of private development, Complete Streets and parks.



Homegrown, Community Focused

While we’re bringing in global experience and expertise to these Genuine Ingenuity workshop sessions, we’re also bringing in local experience and expertise that can help benefit the community from those who know it best. Our North Carolina State Transportation Leader, Mary Clayton, is a native “Charlottean” who has worked in the local transportation field for over 35 years. Similarly, Senior Transportation Planner Joe Lesch has lived the majority of his life in Charlotte. Even yours truly has a strong local connection, having worked as a regional planner in North Carolina’s Research Triangle region as well as the Greater Charlotte area before serving in my current role as Transportation Planner at Gresham Smith.



A Nexus Point for Friends and Colleagues

Ultimately, these workshops represent a genuine effort to reach the Greater Charlotte community by providing an informal environment that fosters collaboration among those who can make a difference. And it’s not your typical meeting. In fact, I like to think of these sessions as a unique place where friends and colleagues come together to discuss some exciting opportunities and often-complex challenges associated with such a high-growth area.