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Charlotte, the Queen City

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By August Caravalho, on May 17, 2011

Monday was my first day in the Budget and Evaluation Office of the City of Charlotte, NC. For those of you, dear readers, who may be unfamiliar with North Carolina, Charlotte is the most populous city in the state, with more than 730,000 residents living across almost 300 square miles. It has two professional sports teams, the NFL’s Panthers and the NBA’s Bobcats, and will be the host city for the Democratic National Convention in 2012. Charlotte is also home to Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the hub for US Airways, and is a major US banking center, second only to New York City, with Bank of America and (until 2008) Wachovia locating their corporate headquarters in Uptown Charlotte.

In fact, the 60-story Bank of America Building, on the right, defines the Charlotte skyline, it’s upper architectural detail – a nod to Charlotte’s nickname, “The Queen City.” As it so happens, I am living this summer in student housing at Queens University, a beautiful school that is connected to Uptown Charlotte by Queens Road. Clearly it is not a non sequitur of a nickname. The ride in to work, from the lush tree lined streets of Queens to the urban core of Uptown, is wonderful. The tall buildings of Uptown rise above the heads of the trees like you’re coming upon Oz. I’m doing this commute, by the way, on my scooter, a blue and white Honda Metropolitan with a UNC logo on the front. It really was ideal, as the parking here in the big city is predictably tough, which is to say, half as crazy as in Chapel Hill. I parked right in front of work, at a bike rack next to another scooter, a red one, that is driven by a transportation planner. We two, he and I, have the best commute in the entire city.

The Budget and Evaluation Office is on the fifteenth floor of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center in Uptown Charlotte. That’s the top floor, down the hall from the City Manager’s Office, the City Attorney’s Office, and the Mayor and City Council’s offices. The building is an odd triangle shape, so corner offices are far more acute than one normally expects. Take a look at this aerial photo.

The Government Center is the triangle on the top, casting the big shadow. (Actually, can you see the curved driveway veering off the left side of the street into the shade of the shadow? I park right inside of that. Seriously, beat that parking space.) Across the street is Old City Hall, a more standard, art deco government building built in 1924. But in the early 1990s the vast majority of the City moved across the street, to the new angles of the much taller Government Center, along with much of Mecklenburg County government. Because the two governments collaborated to share the same building space, a compromise was agreed upon and the building was not formally called City Hall. So Charlotte technically has no “city hall,” only the Government Center and Old City Hall. Remember this if you are trying to get around using Google Maps. Otherwise it can be confusing.

Charlotte and Mecklenburg are actually very intertwined. As you can see in the image below, the City of Charlotte makes up the majority of the county.

This relationship manifests hybrids of government in various ways. For example, police services in the entire county are consolidated and provided by the city, courtesy of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. In balance, parks and recreation services, traditionally a City function, are handled by the County. And even beyond these two large differences, Charlotte and Mecklenburg also share fleet services and many other undertakings, right down to sharing the same building.

My first day was spent in a whirlwind: meeting so many of my friendly summer co-workers and fighting with my computer, which initially refused to boot up. I toured around the Government Center and talked with my boss about what I’ll being doing over the next few weeks. The office had a potluck lunch for me and I had a rice and cheese and broccoli casserole that was fantastic. But then the day was over. In a flash. I can’t wait to get back tomorrow to figure out exactly how I’m going to fit in everything I want to get done between now and the end of July. Emergency communications consolidation! Tax structure comparison! DNC planning! Touring the solid waste facility! I am looking forward to my time as a Charlotte employee.

Tags: Charlotte, First day, buildings | Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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One Response to “Charlotte, the Queen City”

  1. Jason Damweber

    Good stuff Gus. Congrats on landing a great internship.

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