Thursday, August 23, 2012

Images of near-dead suburbia

Some of you may be shocked to learn this, but the Naked City Blog is only a small part of my job. I'm the director of the new website, part of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. The site's goal, since its launch a few months back, is to cover, in a journalistic way, events and trends in growth, planning, environmental and urban issues from the greater Charlotte region.

Castlebrooke in Kannapolis, about 20 miles northeast of Charlotte
Yesterday PlanCharlotte and the UNCC Urban Institute posted a series of what I think are stunning images by local photographer Nancy Pierce, of a sampling of abandoned subdivisions in the region. They are haunting, depicting nature reclaiming street drains, kudzu climbing over roll-over curbs, a swimming pool in the middle of a scraped-earth lot, subdivision entry gates looking like ancient medieval ruins.

Some of the developments remain stalled, or maybe dead. The top photo is from Apple Creek in Gastonia and Gaston County, about 20 miles west of Charlotte. The one at the end of this is from the site of the former Charlotte Coliseum, where City Park was to have been a large mixed-use development of homes, offices, stores and a hotel. (A proposal to build apartments there is now in the works, the article says.)

Others, too, such as Castlebrooke (shown directly above), may be stirring to life again. As planner Kris Krider of Kannapolis tells PlanCharlotte writer Josh McCann, in retrospect, it might not have been wise for Kannapolis to annex land so far from its core, because that can strain the city’s police force and require new fire stations and water and sewer infrastructure. But the city has already made those investments, and so it needs houses to materialize, to generate revenue to cover costs.

But the photo series and the article, together, should serve as a caution to government leaders as well as private businesses. Is all growth "good" regardless or where or what it is? Can we ever knit these developments into a town or a city, or will they remain isolated pods in remote areas? Or will the kudzu overtake them in the end?

Where Charlotteans once went to see Charlotte Hornets Dell Curry and Muggsy Bogues in action
Click here for article.
Click here for photo gallery. 


consultant said...

It seems like the end is already happening.

Metro Atlanta is full of these PVC farms. 5 years into the housing collapse, with a good portion of the area underwater, you'd have to be nuts, or someone looking for a fool to hold the next bag of dreams, to build another subdivision here (in Atlanta).

A lot of money was in the pipeline when the crash happened. Many people in the business keep saying, "..things will come back."

They will come back. They just won't come back to what folks were use to. Building subdivisions wherever they wanted. That's over.

I think it's wise to document these places. Start documenting families moving in with each other. That's the new trend.

Good work Mary.

Anonymous said...

The haunted-house trope you see in early movies, i.e. the Disney short and other works all the way do Scooby Doo, that dates back to the large numbers of abandoned homes left behind in the Depression of 1893. These ruins will make their way to folklore too.

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