Monuments and Amenities in Charlotte, NC

By: Yorgo Douramacos

Often times, monuments are tributes to past achievements. But they can just as often be resounding statements of purpose. In the center of downtown Charlotte, on the four corners where Trade and Tryon streets cross, are four sculpted pillars. One is labeled “industry,” another “fortune,”  a third “transportation,” and the fourth has a figure of  mother and child symbolizing “future.”  The message seems to be that these elements are equally harnessed and uniquely combined in Charlotte.

It is easy enough to make civic gestures and build eye catching monuments. But Charlotte has managed to put dollars and development into animating the principles espoused by these statues. Down only two blocks from the intersection of Trade and Tryon is a much more tangible and dynamic symbol of industry, fortune and future. It is the latest development in the city’s transit system, a sleek, frequent light rail line. Emblematic of the confluence of the forces invoked by the four statues, it connects the nation’s 3rd fastest growing city with its self.

It took persistence and repeated statement of public desire for this improvement, to get the rail line up and running. A referendum was passed by a greater than 60% majority in 1998 raising the sales tax by a half percent to put toward the planning and installation of light rail. After nine years of struggle and hard work, another referendum was put forward to defund the project. This was defeated by a greater plurality than had passed the original measure. So on November 24th 2007 the LYNX Blueline began service.

Today attractive housing and boutique shops are rising along the Blueline route. And even though city officials stos well short of claiming this development as a direct result of the train line, it is certainly symptomatic of the same determination and cultural momentum that resulted in this unique transit amenity. Charlotte seems to be pushing ahead, offering both its present and future population options and a reason to be optimistic.

Photo: corner of Trade and Tryon streets in Charlotte, North Carolina.