Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Charlotte Streetcar Named Desire

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?


Anonymous said...

Cedar you are right the West side streetcar makes no sense at all. There are is nothing that will change at least as far as Brookshire.

This is just all smoke to keep the black folk in line.

Anonymous said...

If it worked on South Blvd why wouldn't it work in West Charlotte?

Anonymous said...

No where does Cedar or anyone ever point out that the trolly is proposed as a free ride. Is asking at least $1.00 too much from the entitled citizens who are to ride this glorified bus?
Foxx will go down as the biggest joke this side of Dr Leake.

Anonymous said...

It makes more sense to extend it further down central if they want additional tax money from redevelopment and increased property values. This is nothing against JCSU, but they and several others don`t pay taxes so the city can't make property tax money from them.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's worked wonderfully for South Blvd, hasn't it? Once you pass Bland south, the vacant buildings start. And I would argue all that development would have come regardless of the billions spent on the monorail.

How much tax money does the old Queen Park property generate today compared to 1991? Or the drive-in? Or any of the other businesses that have fled all the way to 485.

Something to be said when the old Office Lounge or the Carousel can't stay open. And Cash for Titles/Gold and Payday Loans are not the type of businesses to hang a development schemes' past success on.

I used to ride the Blue Line occassionally, but when a crazed derelict tried to start a fight with my wife, that was the last time I'll ever ride anything Lynx run. We pay, they ride. I'm all for it, if it's a one-way Trailways ticket out of town, but not for a fancy free-ride to the hospital for some free healthcare.

Anonymous said...

Why have you shut the comments down on TWO threads?
I have seen a lot worse comments, personal and otherwise, on here!
Doesn't make sense?!