Here is a fun (and easy) way to recap our Forum events from 2013.  Above is our 2013 poster collage of event images and below is a numbered list describing each monthly event.  

See if you can match the images with the specific event.  Answers are at the bottom.  

Thanks for your interest and participation.  


Repurposing shipping containers for sustainable immersive environments

Image:  A proposed Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas

How can great places be erected and dismantled in a matter of hours or days with a very low cost to entry. What benefits are there to designing and building the elements of place by moving them around and setting them up and breaking them down?  How does this approach best allow interaction with a community.  How does this allow us to perform a real-life test within a given community to see how well received and supported their place might be?  Participants joined us for this Civic By Design Forum where we have invited Jim Curtis of Boxman Studios to consider ways to build great places utilizing repurposed shipping containers. Boxman Studios is a Charlotte design and fabrication company specializing in adaptive reuse of shipping containers. Their work was featured recently at the DNC with Google Village.


The following was included in this event:

1.  Presenters showed examples of container architecture from homes to retail to urban town centers. 

2.  Discussed desired urban design elements/outcomes that create great places for gathering and social interaction.

3.  Identified specific ideas and concepts using repurposed shipping containers that could be utilized to create great places.

4.  Proposed specific locations and steps that might achieve the desired goals of containing place for the Charlotte region.

5.  Discussed how we can get involved in promoting and implementing these ideas.


PARTNERS:    Presented by the Levine Museum of the New South with Boxman Studios


Check out the awesome ‘pop-up’ GooglePlex at the DNC, feat. shipping containers


Introducing a new organization with the goal of planting 500,000 trees

Image:  TreesCharlotte logo

Participants joined us in welcoming Laura Brewer, City Arborist; Tom Johnson, Senior Urban Forestry Specialist for the City of Charlotte’s Land Development Department; and Dave Cable, Director of Trees Charlotte; as they told us all about the uniqueness of our tree canopy and about this exciting new collaboration.


The following was included in this event:

1. Putting Charlotte’s canopy and street trees in perspective.

2. Why, even though Charlotte has one of the best tree ordinances in the country, is TreesCharlotte even necessary.

3. How an update on recent revisions of the tree ordinance as an important part of a multi-strategy solution to meet the canopy goal.

4. Why this initiative isn't a purely government program and how private property will benefit from this program.

5. How this organizational model plays to their partners’ strengths, is entrepreneurial, and is most efficient.

6. How TreesCharlotte stretches tax dollars by engaging volunteers to plant and take care of trees.

7. How we can get involved in TreesCharlotte.


PARTNERS:  Presented by the Levine Museum of the New South with TreesCharlotte 

REFERENCES:  Charlotte’s tree canopy is one of the finest urban forests in America and is our most recognized and treasured natural resource. The canopy defines our City and benefits everyone. Trees clean our air, reduce storm water run-off, cool our streets and homes (reduce energy use), increase property values, and give us beauty. Trees are essential to our health, both physically and mentally. In recognition of the canopy’s importance and tree canopy loss, the Charlotte City Council recently adopted a bold tree canopy coverage goal of 50% by 2050. This goal calls for planting 500,000 trees. TreesCharlotte is a public/private collaborative dedicated to planting 15,000 trees annually through volunteer efforts. The collaborative also educates Charlotte’s residents on the importance of the canopy and ways to plant and preserve trees. At its core, TreesCharlotte is an unparalleled civic engagement initiative that will help build stronger neighborhoods and community.  Through its NeighborWoods program, TreesCharlotte will plant over 1,000 trees this fall and winter in seven neighborhoods and school campuses. Ten major planting events are planned for the next planting season. TreesCharlotte also supports reforest efforts to plant thousands of small trees in natural areas.


3. MIXED DENSITY (Field Trip)

Brightwalk - a new urban community

Image:  A view across the entrance water feature showing Brightwalk's new model homes

Brightwalk is a new urban neighborhood along Statesville Avenue, located just one mile from Uptown Charlotte. When complete, it will include a fine-grain mix of more than 1000 homes, cottages, mansions, granny flats, apartments and town houses.  The community is highly amenitized with 5-minute walking access to schools, shops, daily needs, community centers, churches, and the greater North End.   Open space includes an environmental art master plan of parks, stream restoration, running and cycling trails, greenways, and connections to the Carolina Thread Trail and Irwin Creek Greenway.


Participants joined us in a special field trip to tour Charlotte's new mixed-density neighborhood Brightwalk as hosts Emma Littlejohn of The Littlejohn Group, Richard Petersheim of Land Design, Joshua Riley and Ryan Strait of Standard Pacific Homes, David L. Howard of the City of Charlotte, greeted and hosted a tour and discussion.

 The following was included in this event:

1. An introduction to Brightwalk — the big picture, the place, the plan, residential, retail, environment, art, and happenings.

2. A walking tour of the neighborhood.

3. Along the way observed and discussed how:

•  small scale design and development is ideal for the new economy and evolving trends in community lifestyle,

•  human-scale proportion and getting the details right foster interaction among its residents, 

•  a holistic vision promotes community resilience and serves as a viable infill strategy,

•  livable streets are arranged in compact, walkable blocks,

•  fine-grain mixed-density with a range of housing choices serve people of diverse ages and income levels,

•  schools, stores and other nearby destinations are reachable by walking, bicycling or transit service,

•  an affirming, human-scaled public realm where appropriately designed buildings define and enliven streets and other public spaces, and

•  an environmental art master plan addresses green space opportunities which restore and preserve the community's natural resources.  


PARTNERS AND ADVOCATES:    Presented by the Levine Museum of the New South with Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership (CMHP), CharlotteNatureMuseum, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation, CharlotteMecklenburg Schools and the McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, the Mixed-Income Housing Coalition.

REFERENCES:  The goal is to build a neighborhood full of diverse people with the amenities, services and conveniences they need. This is already falling into place as Brightwalk comes to life with friends, families and all the bright spots that are part of the masterplan: mixed-density, mixed-income, mixed-use, parks, walkways, fountains, bridges, shady spots, pet paths and more.


Using the new Quality of Life Dashboard

Image:  A neighborhood Dashboard image clip showing neighborhoods that share a similar range of water consumption 

As we move to a more data driven society neighborhood residents, policy makers, and businesses have more access to important information.  In conjunction with UNC-Charlotte the 2012 Quality of Life Study is an example of City and County government collaborating to improve the way we partner with neighborhoods.  The new Quality of Life Dashboard includes more data and interactive maps.  The raw data is also downloadable, allowing users to customize their research. 

The new Dashboard platform and variables give neighborhood residents the ability to select the data that is most important to them, providing a framework to highlight their success stories as well as identify the most pressing issues.

Participants joined us for this Civic By Design Forum where John G. Howard of Neighborhood and Business Services Community Engagement Division of the City of Charlotte engaged participants in an interactive session mixing and matching data for neighborhoods across the region. 


The following was included in this event:

1. An introduction to the Quality of Life Dashboard

2. A walk through the interactive database

3. Along the way we saw the many ways we can use the dashboard to analyze or community, for example:

•  How does your own neighborhood compare to others overall?

•  How are certain areas bicycle friendly/unfriendly?

•  Which neighborhoods consume the most or the least local resources i.e. power, gas, water, and through recycling?

•  How diverse or how much of a monoculture are different areas of the city i.e. ages and income levels?

•  How does your neighborhood compare to others in terms of easy access to good schools, stores and other nearby destinations?

•  How where you live is easily reachable not only by car but by walking, bicycling or transit service - and/or what neighborhoods are isolated i.e. where are there food deserts?

•  How do different neighborhoods measure up quality and condition of the tree canopy?

•  How well-educated is the population in different areas of the city?   


PARTNERS:    Presented by the Levine Museum of the New South with Charlotte City and County Governments, and UNC Charlotte.



Planning for Charlotte's Economic and Fiscal Health

Images:  East Boulevard, Midtown Greenway, and Southend

Ways Smart Growth can position the city's long-term economic health and competitiveness.


Participants joined the City of Charlotte and Plan Charlotte for a community dialogue by Smart Growth America. Presentations were made by Roger Millar and William Fulton of Smart Growth America. 


HOSTS:    Plan Charlotte, City of Charlotte



Evaluating two competing proposals to redevelop Eastland Mall

Biz Journal editorial: Revival plan lacks sustainable vision

Images: Studio Charlotte proposal - a view from above the adjacent neighborhood with the film studio in foreground. ARK Ventures proposal — features examples of proposed entertainment activities

Two competing visions were proposed by development teams for the Eastland Mall redevelopment site.  Studio Charlotte Development (the winner) wants the primary focus of its Eastland development to be a film studio and film school.  The core of the ARK Ventures proposal (dropped out) is an entertainment/activity center with a ski slope, skateboard park, gymnasium and wave pool.  Both proposals also call for residential, retail and office uses.  Both are interesting and complex strategies that raise questions. For example, will these "silver bullet" ideas — a film studio and/or an outdoor activity center — combined with infill mixed-use development be successful and benefit the eastside in the long run?   What if the filming studios and outdoor entertainment venues fade, evolve, or are displaced by the next new silver bullet?  How would the selected plan continue to thrive and support the eastside's on-going vision for redeveloping a dead mall site as a viable and sustainable place-based urban center?  Participants joined Civic By Design in this on-going series of forums on the evolution of the former Eastland Mall site.


 The following was included in this event:

1. An overview of each proposed urban design

2.  A discussion on, an evaluating of, and a rating for the each urban design using the following civic by design criteria:

•  a holistic vision promoting community resilience and serving as a viable infill strategy,

•  livable streets arranged in compact, walkable, connected blocks,

•  fine-grain mixed-density with a range of housing choices serving people of diverse ages and income levels,

•  schools, stores and other nearby neighborhoods and destinations reachable by walking, bicycling or transit service,

•  an affirming, human-scaled public realm with appropriately designed buildings defining and enlivening streets and other public spaces,  

•  design and development models ideal for the new economy and evolving trends in community lifestyle,

•  ecological and civic art addressing open space opportunities which restore and preserve the community's natural resources, and

•  human-scale gathering spaces for fostering interaction among citizens.


PARTNERS:  Presented by the Levine Museum of the New South with Civic By Design 


Here’s where the proposals could be downloaded for review:

Studio Charlotte Development is a partnership between Charlotte movie executive Bert Hesse and PacificaVentures. 

ARK Ventures is a partnership between Rick and Noah Lazes, who built the N.C. Music Factory in Fourth Ward. Their team also includes Ryland Homes and Wagner Murray Architects of Charlotte. 

7. GREEN WAYS (Field Trip) 

Greenways and their role in placemaking, livability, recreation and destination connectivity —

case study Little Sugar Creek Greenway

Image; John Nolen's 1917 greenway master plan for the City of Charlotte

A greenway is a corridor of protected open space that urban and rural areas create for the enjoyment of local residents and visitors. Through the creation of greenways, residents of and visitors to our region are provided with numerous benefits that they can enjoy year-round. Some of these benefits include providing a scenic location to recreate, a space to walk or bike that is separated from automobile traffic, and a reduction in vehicular congestion.  The role of greenways is evolving in the twenty-first century to not only include recreation but also as destinations and as connectors to other destinations.  Accessibility is increasingly important in this evolving role.  Beth Poovey, of Land Design and Ray Atkinson, alumnus, UNCC presented and led a discussion at the Levine Museum.  Then we reconvened on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway for a tour over gelato.  


 The following was included in this event:

1. An overview of greenways and their role in placemaking, livability, recreation and destination connectivity

2.  A discussion on, an evaluating of, and a rating of Little Sugar Creek Greenway using the following criteria:

•  How accessible are greenways by walking, biking, transit, and driving?

•  Where do greenway users typically travel from — the pedestrian to driving shed?

•  What are the potential and revealed socio-economic characteristics of people using greenways?

•  Are schools, stores and other daily needs and amenities reachable by walking or biking along greenways?

•  How are greenway features designed to contribute to an affirming, human-scaled public realm with appropriately designed spaces defining and enlivening public spaces fostering interaction among citizens?

•  How does ecological infrastructure and civic art open space opportunities restore and preserve the community's natural resources? and

•  How are greenways models ideal for the new economy and evolving trends in community lifestyle for both recreation and destinations?


PARTNERS:    Presented by the Levine Museum of the New South with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation, UNCC, and Land Design


Little Sugar Creek Greenway Restoration:


The American Dream is moving forward

Image: Hipsturbia, New York Times 

Entrepreneurs, urban designers, home builders, and thinkers continue to plan, design, and build the places where we want to live.   Recently trend-watchers in New York City and San Francisco began tracking 30- and 40-something moms and dads that have increasingly moved from urban locations to nearby suburbs, citing the high cost of housing and the desire for better schools for their kids.  Sound familiar? In the 1970s the parents of the baby-boomer generation did the same thing. But as an article identifying this trend as "Hipsturbia" in the New York Times cites "they didn’t have black-rimmed glasses and gluten free bakeries did not exist back then. Today, signs of hipster infestation include: farm-to-table restaurants, dudes with muttonchops, a proliferation of yoga studios and moms with visible tattoos. "    So how will this trend affect the form of our own region's big-boxy, hyper-commuter car culture suburbs.  Are there already hotspots of Hipsturbia in the making?  Participants joined the August Civic By Design Forum for a presentation and discussion on HIPSTURBIA: the American dream moving forward. 


 The following was included in this event:

1. An overview of trends in the evolving suburbs including Hipsturbia

2. Identified locations in the suburban Charlotte region that already have or may desire characteristics of Hipsturbia such as Belmont, Davidson, Locust, Weddington, Waxhaw?

3.  A discussion on

•  Whether these hot spots of "Hipsturbia" are among the first in a new wave of transforming the suburb, or are they outliers? 

•  How this trend may be tied to the slow-food movement, the slow urbanism movement, slow-everything movement in the new economy?

•  Whether the much-noted preference for city life for Generation Y and Millennials will persist as this demographic ages and reproduces; and

4. Presentations of Hipsturbia design case study examples for retrofitting suburbia for the 21st Century.  

PARTNERS:    Presented by the Levine Museum of the New South and Civic By Design


Creating Hipsturbia in the Suburbs:

The End of the Suburbs:

Jargon Watch:  Hipsturbia:

Two-wheel town: Belmont aims to build bicycling culture:

9. CITY PARK (Field Trip) 

A Forum and Tour of Charlotte's New Bearden Park

Image:  Birds-eye rendering of Romare Bearden Park: Land Design 

Within urban areas, open public space serves a very important purpose for the development of human society and civic life.  Bearden Park is conceived as a large scale public park intended to become the symbolic focus of Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte. Bearden was an internationally renowned artist who was born in Charlotte.  The park design is based on the work of public artist Norie Sato. Her concepts were inspired by Bearden’s multimedia collages where he used memory, experiences and tradition as the basis of his work.  Land Design's Rhett Crocker presented an overview of the design vision, and Aaron Shier led the tour.  Lee Jones (Park & Rec) and Jay Higginbotham (Meck Co Real Estate Services) participated as well.


 The following was included in this event:

1. An overview of what makes great City Parks and Squares

2. An introduction to the design of Romare Bearden Park

3. A overview of the design elements including:

•  Big Moon Green - A large open lawn area designed for informal play as well as an area for event gatherings.

•  The Perrons - Perrons are large linear steps cascading up from Mint Street into the Big Moon Green.

•  The Evocative Spine - The Evocative Spine is the main thoroughfare in the park.

•  The Art Wall - The Art Wall designed to provide a platform for public art interpretation, 

•  The Gardens  - two major gardens in the park, which are named for two women who greatly inspired Romare Bearden. Madeline Jones and Maudell Sleet in the context of their sumptuous gardens. 

•  The Arbor and Trellis - The Arbor and Trellis provide a shaded terminus for the Formal Oval. 

•  The Memory Walk - This specific connection designed with a very colorful paving pattern based on one of Bearden’s actual works is a direct “ode” to the idea of memory. 

•  The Formal Oval - The Formal Oval is programmed to provide an area for smaller formal events is the central focus of the upper part of the park andthe top portion of the interactive water feature.

•  Childhood Muse Plaza - Provides the prime showcase area for interactive water and public art. With cascading water, art, play and landform.

•  Paris Memory  - This space evokes some of the Parisian space that Bearden experienced during his time in the City of Lights. with moveable tables and chairs a tree canopy and a refreshment kiosk. 

•  The Baseball Plaza - Provides queuing space for large volumes of baseball fans designed to evoke the excitement of heading into the event. 

4. A walking tour of Bearden Park


PARTNERS:    Presented with Levine Museum of the New South with Land Design, Charlotte Parks and Recreation, Mecklenburg County Real estate Services, Charlotte Center City Partners and Civic By Design


Mecklenburg County Parks and Rec

Charlotte Prepares To Open Romare Bearden Park On Labor Day Weekend:“

"You can neither lie to a neighbourhood park, nor reason with it. 'Artist's conceptions' and persuasive renderings can put pictures of life into proposed neighbourhood parks or park malls, and verbal rationalizations can conjure up users who ought to appreciate them, but in real life only diverse surroundings have the practical power of inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use.” 

― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities


A Forum and Tour of Baxter Village, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Image:  View of Garden Cottages house facade details  

The Close family of Fort Mill had the idea 20 years ago that some of its 7,000 acres in northern York County should be like the neighborhoods of yesteryear.  In 1998, work was begun on Baxter Village to create a mixed-use haven alongside Interstate 77 — on land that was once organized with rows of peach trees.  During a period when other ambitious housing and mixed-use projects were delayed and even killed by the Great Recession, Baxter flourished. But the 1,033 acres at the S.C. Highway 160 interchange are almost filled, with some of the last houses now under construction.  Participants joined the founders and implementers as they told about Baxter’s evolution and what developers have in store for the section of York County that has become the go-to small town community of Charlotte as it works to attract more than Queen City commuters.


 The following was included in this event:

1. An overview of Baxter Village - the vision, design principles, and evolution of build-out; 

2. A walk around the neighborhood;

3. Discussions with residents and local leaders on how it is working; and

4. A preview of the future at the Garden Cottages.


PARTNERS:    Baxter Village and Saussy Burbank



Constructing spaces by first changing the perception of space

Image:  Wynwood Walls, Miami

How can we activate and sustain spaces through creative place-making?  Instead of the usual approach of "build it and they will come", what it we “build it with them,” in that they are already there?  If curated visual and performance art adds multi-layers and richness, how can this be integrated into the urban planning process?  Participants joined Manoj Kesavan for this forum as he curates this discussion on community.Manoj Kesavan is the founder of Que-OS, a collaborative, multidisciplinary studio that helps plan, activate and sustain spaces for community and culture. He is also the founder of Point 8 Forum, Pecha Kucha Charlotte and a founding organizer of TEDx Charlotte.


The following was included in this event:

1. Introducing the idea of curating community and urban design.

2. Discussing the essential middle ground of art between "you pay and go in" and "busking."

3. Reviewing case studies including Sa Francisco's Intersection of Arts; Greensboro's Art in Odd Places; and the Wynwood Arts District Miami.

4. Creating the right framework where this can happen and be sustained.


PARTNERS:    Presented with Levine Museum of the New South, Civic By Design, and Que-OS



Intersection of Arts

Art in Odd Places


Why do we instinctively prefer some places over others?

Image examples showing elements of Refuge and Prospect:  Landscape paintings and an urban panorama of Southside redevelopment in Greensboro North Carolina 

Why do we prefer some areas while we shun others?  In other words, where do we feel most at ease, and why?  “Prospect-and-Refuge” is a theory that explains deep-seated human environmental preferences.  Proposed by British geographer Jay Appleton in his book The Experience of Landscape, the theory is based on the idea that we instinctively prefer places that allow us to clearly observe our surroundings, or “prospect,” while at the same time give us partial concealment and protection as well as an opportunity to withdraw, if needed, to find “refuge.”  This theory can be applied to urban environments today.  Participants joined us as Asheville-based Virginia Faust facilitates discussions and presentations on Refuge and Prospect.  UNCC's Dylan McKnight presented a Prosepct and Refuge case study on his capstone design project for Charlotte's Reid Park.

THE DECEMBER 10 EVENT: The following was included in this event:

1. Introduction to the theory of Prospect and Refuge;

2. Presentation of natural and urban examples of historic and new places that feature elements of Prospect and Refuge;

3. Discussion on how designers think in terms of designing/creating urban places and landscapes that consider Prospect and Refuge; and

4. Proposed places in the Charlotte region where the design of places such as Reid Park would benefit from a Prospect and Refuge approach.

5. Virginia showed images of an interesting plaza in Hendersonville that she has observed for the last 10-15 years.  It has not been successful and has seen a redesign, which also has not been successful.  We all discussed that space and how the theory of Prospect and Refuge might help a subsequent redesign be more successful. 

6. Dylan took a similar approach to one of the park meadows in the Reid Park master plan.  We discussed how simply moving the placement of a few seating amenities toward the edges of the open space might make them feel more comfortable.

7. A participant brought up landscape urbanism and how Prospect and Refuge might be seen in that concept.  Others were not familiar with the concept, so we briefly brought them up to speed on it.

8. Many participants brought up examples of poorly designed public spaces that could benefit from the outlook of Prospect and Refuge

9. Participants also discussed how the theory could be formally integrated into standard design and planning processes, how it might be able to be thought of as another way to analyze existing conditions and to be a design principle (like nodes, gateways, paths, views, etc.)  

10. Participants discussed how Prospect and Refuge might apply to interior spaces and how the theory might be applicable to outdoor spaces of varying sizes.  How small does the space have to get before the theory isn't applicable anymore?  Or is it always applicable?

11. The group saw links to the work of William Whyte and was curious how this theory might have showed up in his studies of plazas in New York City.  In larger plazas, it seemed apparent that visitors felt uncomfortable in the exposed center and huddled toward the edges.  But, in smaller plazas or pocket parks, space was constrained and visitors sat in the center of the space.

PARTNERS:    Presented with Levine Museum of the New South, the North Carolina Division of Community Assistance, UNCC, and Civic By Design.


Creating Vibrant Public Spaces by Ned Crankshaw

The Experience of Landscape by Jay Appleton

Prospect and Refuge Theory: Constructing a Critical Definition for Architecture and Design

Prospect-refuge patterns in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie houses

Reid Park Master Plan by Dylan McKnight

Testing Prospect-Refuge Theory: A Comparative Methodological Review (2012)

The Origins of Aesthetic Pleasure

The Wright Space

The Transect Collection (example images)

The Church and Neighborhood

The Walkable City By Jeff Speck

Fear of Crime in Relation to Three Exterior Site Features: Prospect, Refuge, and Escape

William Whyte

The mission of the Civic By Design Forum is to elevate the quality of our region’s built environment and to promote public participation in the creation of a more beautiful and functional region for all. We achieve our mission by engaging and uniting businesses, non-profits, academic institutions, municipal governments, and citizens through civic design. This is a free and open to the public forum entering our tenth year of activity. The Forum is presented with the Levine Museum of the New South and through partnerships with the Foundation for the Carolinas, Crossroads Charlotte, American Institute of Architects Charlotte, the Congress for the New Urbanism Carolinas, the Charlotte Sierra Club, the US Green Building Council Charlotte, the City of Belmont, the Charlotte Area Bicycle Alliance, the Charlotte Mixed-Income Housing Coalition, Congress of Residential Architecture Charlotte, the Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America Charlotte, City of Charlotte Transportation and Planning, Charlotte Center City Partners, Sustain Charlotte, the Public Art Program of Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council, TreesCharlotte, Que-OS, Plan Charlotte, the NC Division of Community Assistance and participants like you.  Thomas E. Low AIA CNU LEED AICP NCARB, Chair, Civic By Design Forum. © 2013

Answers to Puzzler:  1-A, 2-C, 3-K, 4-B, 5-J, 6-D, 7-F, 8-H, 9-G, 10-L, 11-A, 12-E.


Second Tuesday of the Month | 5:30pm – 6:30pm

Levine Museum of the New South

200 East Seventh Street

Charlotte NC

Free and open to the public

Free parking at 7th Street parking garage