The Elephant in the City

by John Komisin
Jul. 24, 2020 | Back To Explore

What part does development of the built environment play in creating equal opportunity, social justice and upward mobility in Charlotte? Little recently brought together a panel of policymakers, economic developers, designers and commercial developers to explore how they, and others, can help drive positive change. The entire one-hour discussion can be viewed here. Following are five main takeaways:  

  1. We must acknowledge the role that past policies have played in creating racial and economic segregation in our city, to avoid having history repeat itself. This includes zoning ordinances, deed restrictions, bank lending policies, and urban renewal projects.  Future planning policy and ordinances must aggressively address these issues to reverse decades of past injustices.   
  2. Plan to create a city that is equitable, livable and connected.  Assure that services and amenities are developed throughout the city, not just concentrated in affluent areas.  
  3. Expand opportunities for people of color. This includes hiring priorities at design and development firms, along with programs that will promote minority inclusion at all stages of the development process including ownership participation, contracting and operations.  
  4. Actively engage the local community in the planning process for any new development. Assure that small projects receive equal attention and resources from city agencies as larger projects.  
  5. From the panelists’ viewpoints, one key thing that can move the needle toward a more equitable city: 
    • Equitable development initiatives – building capacity of minority developers  
    • Public policies to include land use policies that mitigate segregation, deploying money for affordable housing equally across the city, and targeting incentives and economic development funds to underprivileged areas  
    • A holistic approach to economic development that includes emphasis on recruiting businesses and companies committed to upward mobility as part of their mission  
    • More minority inclusion at all levels of development through prioritized recruitment practices  

Our thanks to our panelists for the discussion: 

Taiwo Jaiyeoba
Assistant City Manager/Director of Planning, Design & Development for the City of Charlotte 

Tracy Dodson 
Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director for the City of Charlotte  

Ronn Stewart 
Senior Vice President of Development at Laurel Street 

Todd Mansfield 
Chairman & CEO of Crescent Communities