Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Did rogue columnist hit, or miss, in Charlotte critique?

Reading the happy Tweets out of Charlotte this afternoon, as the Chiquita headquarters announcement came through, I stumbled on a link from former Charlotte Observer business editor Jon Talton, who decamped years ago for Phoenix and Seattle. Talton always had an astute, if acerbic, analysis on Charlotte and its civic pride (or boosterism, take your pick).

After Talton (@jontalton) sent out this Tweet: "Chiquita: Say goodbye to world-class symphony, museums, architecture in . Say hello to Waffle House," he started getting some replies from Charlotteans who didn't like seeing their city reduced to a Waffle House stereotype.
"That's kind of a harsh statement. Have you actually been to Charlotte?!" asked one Charlottean. Talton, of course, had lived here for years, though he confessed he rarely went outside the uptown beltway, because that gave him the "fantods."  And his comeback to critics who said he was offending them and their city: "Oh, hell, I've been offending Charlotteans for years."
 
But Talton had an insightful, if gloomy, assessment of the relative merits of Chicago and Charlotte, in this 2009 piece, "Tales of Two Cities: What Chicago and Charlotte Say About The Future Of America."  It contains a wonderful quote from Pericles, “All good things come to the city because of the city’s greatness,” and one characterization I'd take issue with. The Bank of America Corporate Center was not built in "one of downtown's most blighted areas."
But is Talton too gloomy about the long-term prospects of Charlotte and other postwar, Sun Belt cities, built as though 1965 and its gas prices would last forever? I fear he's right. And I hope he's wrong.

4 comments:

tarhoosier said...

I read the tweet before this post and understood it to mean "say good bye to world class..." cultural institutions in Cincinnati because another of your F 500 firms is leaving.
Apparently he meant for Chiquita to say good bye to Cincinnati and its "world class" cultural institutions. This is the city that banned Robert Mapplethorpe exhibits and had a notorious Citizens for Community Values censorship group. Is John Talton perhaps referring to another Cincinnati? The one known as Porkopolis?

Anonymous said...

We just returned from Thanksgiving weekend in hometown of Cincinnati. I will have to agree with Talton's architecture comment--Cincinnati has always seemed to me like a much more interesting city because it has kept many of its older buildings, which are now interspersed with the new. And it has more of a big city feel than Charlotte (although I suspect business-wise Charlotte is more "big city" than Cincinnati). Also culturally, it does seem to have a lot more going on. Chiquita people, though, should love the weather here--winter is the pits in Ohio.

One thing that may surprise Cincinnati ex-pats, especially those with families who settle in the north or south suburbs or outlying counties--the hostility of the press and, dare I say, certain employees of civic think tanks, towards anyone living in those areas. They will quickly learn that they, their families, their homes, and their neighborhoods are considered the selfish bad guys. I never saw the Cincinnati Enquirer engage in the us against them suburban bashing that goes on here.

Anonymous said...

Talton obviously has some bad memories of Charlotte. I genuinely hope he is able to let go of the past and become a happier person. I for one was not aware of Cincinnati's world-class symphony, but it is possible that I've been out of the loop. I'll give Talton some points with the architecture jab, we've destroyed so much of our history that it almost makes one sick to think about. Chiquita, however, could not care less about Waffle House or symphonies (Charlotte's is pretty good though). I'll say his tweet was a miss.

Anonymous said...

I firmly believe Charlotte is at a crossroads. After many years, there are finally signs that some nice development is occurring in places other than inside 277. Southend used to be so fragmented but now is connected via transit and the numerous new buildings. Many of the small towns have adopted smart growth policies as well. The biggest downfall to Charlotte are the endless vinyl cookie cutter subdivisions. Most have NO redeeming qualities, I don't care how much people defend them. They will grow old, ugly and be incapable of being renovated or transformed. The biggest challenge in the next 20 years will be how to redevelop hundreds of square miles of crappy schlock that buildings have thrown up (literally and figuratively). I'm worried Kuntsler may be right.

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