CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- On Tuesday Charlotte City leaders toured the historic South End by bus to see how investments in transportation have spurred progress.
Charlotte Center City Partners and other groups gathered at the corner of Camden and E. Park to explain the "Transit Oriented Development" underway.
Charlotte Center City Partners President, Michael J. Smith told the crowd gathered at the intersection that this "forward looking" investment to infrastructure and transportation is the basic building block of great cities.
"I don't think there is an investment that Charlotte is going to make in the next 50 years that is more shaping than our investment in transit. It creates the kind of environment that tomorrow is looking for," says Smith.
The tour comes as City Council members get set to vote on the controversial street-car initiative, now rebranded as “The City Lynx Gold Line”. On Monday, City Manager Ron Carlee proposed the 2.5 mile extension could be funded without a property tax increase.
District 2 Council Member, James Mitchell tells NBC Charlotte that the historic South End is a great model that can be successfully implemented in other parts of the city.
"It would do what we have been searching to do for so long: become a stimulus and economic development for Central Avenue, West Trade Street and the Beatties Ford Corridor," he said.
Shaleeta Alexander lives in west Charlotte and works at the Wash Zone Coin Laundry on Beatties Ford Road. It is located across the street from Johnson C. Smith University. She is optimistic that a light rail extension through the area will revitalize the neighborhood.
"It's quiet; we don't see a lot of people even though we have a university over here. You don't see a lot of people here because there is not a lot going on," she said.
Smith says Camden Road at South End had been planned from the beginning as the area's neighborhood center. He says considering the area was once a highly industrialized zone, the transformation is something to be proud of.
He says there is still much more that needs to be done, but he is among supporters who believe improving connectivity in the neighborhoods will spawn growth.
To date, more than 750 businesses, mostly small businesses, have set up shop in South End. Along with the future grand opening of the grocery chain Publix, there are currently 11 new residential developments within a five-minute walking distance to a links rail stop. It’s estimated more than 3,500 housing units are also under construction or planned. South End is expected to double its population in 20 years.
To support the new residential and retail growth near the light rail, additions to the "street-scape" were also unveiled before the bus tour.
It included 20 benches and bike racks and state-of-the-art trash cans, called "Big Belly."
The trash receptacles can hold five-times the amount of trash than a traditional can, is solar-powered and is connected online to the sanitation department for trash removal.