Charlotte, NC

Rail Trail Framework Plan

Knitting Communities Together

status

Completed 2015

client

Charlotte Center City Partners

expertise

Public Infrastructure, Public Realm + Open Space

services

Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering, Urban Design

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Facilitating Creativity Through Trail Connections

An energetic, art-lined trail provides a vibrant medley of places that strengthen communities, embody a culture of creativity, and emphasize Charlotte’s unique character.

Charlotte’s four-mile Rail Trail is envisioned to be a vibrant public recreation amenity that serves as a “linear commons” — a place for neighbors and visitors to encounter art and impromptu performances that help them experience the authentic character of Charlotte. Winding through the heart of South End and connecting ten neighborhoods across Charlotte, Rail Trail re-imagines the existing path along the LYNX Blue Line as a dynamic and evolving platform for creativity, economy, and recreation.

LandDesign was retained by Charlotte Center City Partners to develop a Framework Plan to guide future development of the Trail by addressing programming, design, governance, funding, and maintenance. The Rail Trail Framework Plan details how to transform 70+ underutilized spaces into a network of engaging activity nodes that embody the spirit of the community. Cited as an urban economic catalyst for South End, the Plan has incentivized development along the corridor, resulting in an influx of residents, cultural spaces, and office and retail tenants that have revitalized a formerly industrial zone into a dynamic urban hub. Since the Framework Plan’s completion in 2015, Rail Trail has seen tremendous investment, realizing its vision as a unique recreational asset for the neighborhoods along the trail and attracting residents from across Charlotte.

 

 

 

Our Vision

From Trail to Cultural Destination

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Rail Trail is envisioned not only as a great urban greenway trail, but also a destination — a truly one-of-a-kind experience that highlights Charlotte’s creative culture, connects communities, and supports the innovative small businesses in South End. Paralleling the LYNX Blue Line light rail from New Bern Street to Morehead Street and spanning seven neighborhoods, the trail connects Charlotte residents and visitors to over 200 shops, restaurants, and other neighborhood amenities. Featuring a series of activity nodes and dynamic public art, Rail Trail re-envisions an underutilized trail in a disjointed community into a cultural destination.

The Framework Plan provides programming ideas, design guidelines, management structure, and phasing and funding strategies, setting the framework necessary to ensure that the Rail Trail becomes a place that connects community, commerce, and culture.

The Challenge

Connecting Communities Across Rail Lines

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The current Rail Trail faces several challenges: varying from 6 to 12 feet wide, the mostly asphalt path has few trees, green space, or public commons, and it lacks a connection to Uptown, which has never been built. While the rail corridor has historically been viewed as a barrier between neighborhoods, the Rail Trail Framework Plan aims to change the narrative, revealing the potential of this space as a community commons — a place that connects the region’s historic and socio-economically diverse neighborhoods rather than separates them.

Our Approach

Cultivate a Unique Destination for Creative Arts

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Physical

Improve existing trail infrastructure and address the deficit in parks and open space

Functional

Embrace the trail as the “front door” for businesses, connecting neighborhood amenities

Social

Provide trail activation and opportunities for social engagement through public art and cultural experiences

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Physical

Improve existing trail infrastructure and address the deficit in parks and open space

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Functional

Embrace the trail as the “front door” for businesses, connecting neighborhood amenities

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Social

Provide trail activation and opportunities for social engagement through public art and cultural experiences