Charlotte Planning Gets In The Game with Local Citizens with “Growing Better Places”

Question; thinking back to the last board game you played, what were the stakes at hand? Your lives? The team’s victory? And how real were those goals to your real life?

On this past Thursday night, citizens of our own Queen City were playing a game in an event put together by Potions & Pixels, in connection with Charlotte City Planning, that reflects our present lives here & in the future. Did Jumanji seem pretty real on the screen when it took over the player’s lives? Now run with that concept & mix in a bit of Sim City to boot. With all of Charlotte Planning here to guide the groups in play, we’re gaming for Charlotte’s future from here to 2040.

In order to give the best explanation, I’m going to take you through my playthrough, and explain what I also see as a longtime Charlotte resident. So, here we go;

The game itself takes place in two stages, breaking down particular elements of Charlotte while assigning each player a set of aspects to choose from, which in turn for the rest of the game their focus will be to best implement those changes for the better. At the table we were playing at, the three cards, labeled under Strategy that I received, included Accessory Dwelling Units, Mitigate Gentrification, and Duplexes & Triplexes.

The first card stood out, much like the third, as an issue due to congestion of our already well-populated city. To tack onto Duplexes/Triplexes, with most neighborhoods & cul-de-sacs already built around an idea of a smaller area, even in my current residence where there’s multiple people living in one house, space becomes an issue when transportation comes to mind. With those things in mind, I went with an issue we face in multiple areas in Charlotte, no matter where people live; Mitigate Gentrification. It has been said that railroad tracks create a visual image of one standard of living versus a possibly higher one, and many of our city’s residents have been pushed out of their homes or businesses, highlighted easily by the North Davidson Area near 36th St. The idea of a group that provides assistance or a barrier to longtime residents in areas that are bound to grow sounded amazing, so I in my role chose that as a goal for Charlotte’s future.

The next part didn’t cease to create anxiety for me in my quest for a better Charlotte; Choosing between Center City Housing & Displacement. The only way for the first card to work, to me, would be if more people moved towards the center of the city, but that could create separate issues in the intensity of people in one place, including but not limited to parking (I allude frequently to this point, since it’s a huge issue in popular spots in both downtown & anywhere else one can think of in CLT). Considering how to keep people from being pushed out of Charlotte became my goal onward, choosing to preserve neighborhoods while building more into Activity Centers, such as music venues or park areas.

From that point on, going into Stage 2, we as a group began to propose what parts of Charlotte needed the most help. This was, and to be perfectly honest still is, a hard choice, and I found myself at odds as someone who grew up in the area & watched both progress flourish & problems arise from the race toward the future. I know much about the north side towards University City, down to the south side near Pineville where I watched farm houses become industry & strip malls, and it’s a sweet ‘n’ sour passage to behold. Nevertheless, the outcome of the game displayed the pros & cons of our choices, bluntly telling us all that not everything is possible and we, as citizens of the Queen City, must think hard on how to accommodate in a hastily growing city, and that’s very important to realize.

Scott Correll, the Senior Principal Planner, spoke to the design of the game outside after the Thursday event had finished up. “Charlotte’s such a big city, and most people don’t realize that the areas around 300 sq. miles, and that’s huge.”, he explained as I went on about how our game went. “Part of the game,” he emphasized, “is trying to change the side of town that you know, and to determine how you think that area should grow.” I had mentioned that there were divisions at our table based on other parts of Charlotte our players wanted to change. For example, Yoel Kidd, one of our players, had his sights set on what could be done with the areas wrapped around Harris Blvd which connected both the University Area & Northlake Mall.

Scott would go on to explain further that our distinct understandings of our separate areas aren’t as essential as we might think while in our groups. In how the game is broken down, the geographies are there, represented in the cards, in order to give us an idea of just how big Charlotte is, but even he had to point out to me that there were still areas, such as Steele Creek, that can be their own cards, possibly in another version. “The game areas themselves are just a tool in order to split up the population, and to break the game into manageable chunks so that players will have time to finish both rounds.” I should say for the record that the game itself took several hours to complete, and where the event started at 6pm, most groups were still conversing up until the closeout at 9pm.

While not impossible to fathom, as we’ve lived to see the fantasy of games deciding our fates in movies & literature, the idea brought to Charlotte Planning by Michael Zytkow, the owner & operator of Potions & Pixels, blossomed into a connection between the people at the heart of Charlotte we never think we see and the citizens from all walks of live coming to live here or have resided for decades. The subject of how to make Charlotte a better city for all is a complicated issue, yet somehow Charlotte Planning managed to break the aspects down into a game that’s accessible enough for the everyday person to put their experiences & opinions into, and that’s an amazing thing to fathom.

We went into those games Thursday with our own experiences of the Queen City and came out much more learned on the processes of progress, as it deals with us personally, as well as a wider scope of our area & how we each live the “game of life” here. It is another step forward to connecting all of us together, and one the City of Charlotte hadn’t thought of before; by way of a group of friends sitting down over a board game on a rainy night.

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