Charlotte Center City Partners hosted their third annual Vision Awards on April 10th. Basically, this was one big party for over 700 people that honors and celebrates those who've made a significant contribution to the vision and vibrancy of uptown and South End.
First, let me tell you about the best part of the night! Banks and I were delighted to accept an invitation to attend this event, especially since Union (formerly Studiobanks) is in South End and I live uptown. And, well, Banks definitely plays a lot uptown—I'm sure all you night-owls have run into him out and about. Anyway, the event was held at the Charlotte Convention Center and started with a cocktail reception outside and then moved into the ballroom. As Banks and I moved through the crowd to locate our table, we were excited to find that we had great seats in the front row. We then sat down and soon realized after the 6th person at our table introduced themselves as Mr. or Mrs. Price that we were seated with the entire Price's Chicken Coop family! What a thrill. They were a recipient of The Settler's Award that night, which honors the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of center-city businesses. It was great to see them on the other side of the counter all dressed up in their Sunday best!
In the center of our table was a huge 4 or 5 tiered tray that sat on a lazy-susan full of delicious food. So basically, we gently spun the wheel around after each person served themselves. It was a true family-style experience! And the Prices treated us with absolute southern hospitality!
Banks was in heaven! Open bar, front row, sitting with Charlotte's legendary Price's Chicken Coop family and food on a wheel! Can't get much better than that.
The ceremony itself was wonderful. First, it was an opportunity to see just how far our urban core has come and further, the vision and excitement around the 2010 plan is really amazing. Here's part of what Michael Smith, President of Charlotte Center City Partners, had to say in a recent Charlotte Business Journal article:
Our center city is transforming from merely a central business district to the hub of our 21st century transit system, a growing destination and a dense, high-rise urban neighborhood.
In November, we opened our light-rail system. It is breaking down the intimidation factor of parking for many more citizens of our region. We have great expectations for the impact of the next four lines that are in various stages of planning and design.
We are a growing destination for local and national visitors alike. We now have more than 110 restaurants, more than 50 nightspots and 14 hotels, with another four in the works. In 2010, we will open the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Wachovia First Street campus with the Mint Museums, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Studies and the Knight Performing Arts Center. We are only a few years away from opening the Charlotte Knight's AAA baseball stadium and parks in both the Second and Third wards.
Our uptown neighborhoods are thriving, with 13,000 residents living in uptown and South End. By 2020, we expect that number to be 25,000.
While we are evolving and developing these new defining characteristics of our center city, our core role is to be the employment center of our region. We have grown our employment base uptown to 70,000 employees. By 2010, through the addition of four new buildings, we will expand our office space by more than 30%. And by 2020, we anticipate 95,000 employees in the center city.
I know many of us have our stories of how Center City has changed. One of my favorite points of the evening was made in a video of a round table discussion between key members of our city, including Michael Smith and Hugh McColl. McColl made the point that he heard someone speak of how they wish there weren't so many skateboarders on The Plaza, and he remarked that skateboards didn't bother him one bit, especially since it wasn't too long ago that shotguns were the main concern on The Plaza! That really made me think just how far we've come. With the momentum and leadership of organizations like Center City Partners and the award recipients honored that evening, I can only imagine what our city will be like even just a year from now! We are truly fortunate to live in such a thriving city.
Congratulations to all of the 2008 Vision Award Winners!
Special Achievement Awards recognize projects or entities that have had a major impact on center city's transformation:
Charlotte Area Transit System—a leader in the introduction of light-rail service along the South Boulevard corridor
Mecklenburg County Courthouse—a landmark and a symbol of justice in the Charlotte community
Urban Ministry Center—an inter-faith organization serving those who face homelessness and poverty
The Settler's Awards honor the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of center-city businesses:
Hodges Taylor Gallery—one of the first galleries to operate in uptown Charlotte
Price's Chicken Coop—an institution and a tradition in South End
The Vision Award recognizes an individual whose contributions have been imperative to center city's emergence as a thriving urban core:
- Harvey Gantt—architect, urban planner and center city visionary