When Tennessee Williams penned his play (A Streetcar Named Desire) in 1947 he set it against the backdrop of changing America, and a clash of cultures. Much as what Charlotte is facing today, a changing city and as Mayor Foxx has pointed out a clash of cultures.
But as Williams' story unfolds the illusion of the principle character Blanche DuBois is exposed.
Charlotte's Mayor Foxx is a lot like Williams' Blanche:
"I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic. I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don't tell truths. I tell what ought to be truth." Says Blanche Dubois in one scene.
I imagine mayor Foxx much had a deprived childhood, denied magic of that new toy train clicking around the family Christmas tree and this perhaps this is his redemption?
No doubt East Charlotte needs something magic, but you can't correct the sins of our fathers overnight. Misguided rezoning of the 1980's led to a decline in property values and the always spoken in hushed voices "white flight".
Changing demographics, brought on by declining rental rates caused by an over abundance of rental properties built in the 1980s and early 1990's caused the collapse of East Charlotte.
Charlotte needs to learn from her mistakes of the 1980s to insure the blight of East Charlotte stops and does not spread.
“Will it cost us something to build the city that we want to be?” Foxx has asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Pay now, not later. Let’s get it done and make this community what we can make it and
we’re going to be fine.”
I'm sure the city council on 1987 thought the same thing as they approved apartment complex after apartment complex on top of shopping centers and stripmalls.
But, I have yet to see a city study that seeks to understand what happened. How did the once vibrant Central and Albemarle Road area, turn into a wasteland of crime and violence, abandoned businesses and shopping centers?
I have not seen a study of what happened and no real plan beyond "If you build it they will come".
It may be that a Streetcar will help but at what expense to other areas of Charlotte?
The other end of Mayor Foxx's Streetcar Named Desire is West Charlotte or more correctly Beatties Ford Road.
If you drive from the Arena Transit Center toward the Rosa Parks Bus Depot the first thing you notice is most of the property that would front the streetcar is not revenue centric to the city.
Yesterday Charlotte business owner Rasheedah Hasan gave his input on the proposed streetcar during a meeting with West Charlotte residents.
Hasan said that while areas like the Beatties Ford road corridor are "attractive because of their diversity, they lack investors and opportunities for development."
(Cedar's take: Beatties Ford Road has diversity? Seriously?)
Lawanda Mayfield who supports the Streetcar told the group yesterday “Laying those tracks shows permanence. It shows that we’re serious about investment, transportation and infrastructure,”
“At the end of the day, it does take money to make those investments.”
But Mayfield like Mayor Foxx has no answer for where the revenue come from to support the operational expenses? Perhaps it will be magic?
The general theory is that revenue from ridership would not support the operating costs, but that reinvestment in the community would more than pay for the expense.
Except one glaring fault. Property along much of the West Charlotte Streetcar Route is property tax exempt.
Johnson C. Smith owns the property from Montgomery Street to Mill Road, nearly a half mile. Add to that Frazier Park and the I - 77 interchange, numerous churches and public property such as schools and community centers and you suddenly notice that the potential for development from the Arena Transportation Center to the Brookshire Expressway is not there!
In other words the first 2.5 miles of the west portion of the streetcar will have no economic benefit to the city or to the Beatties Ford Road community. The first 2.5 miles will remain pretty much as it is with the exception of magic steel tracks down the center of the street.
Before Charlotte goes on another wild spending spree we should have some direction. Yet in the past plans, be they transportation studies, or zoning have be tossed to the wind. City Council routinely caters to the whims of developers and special interests. Leaving gaps and holes in our communities.
The Streetcar may be Desireable, but does the Mayor's magic just create the what ought to be truth?