PINEHURST Leaders of the Charlotte Chamber, gathering for their annual planning retreat, on Thursday wrapped up two days of sessions aimed at finding ways to make the city a healthier, more vibrant place to live and work.
Carolinas Healthcare System President Michael Tarwater, the chamber’s chairman for 2014, set the table by asking participants to think about advancing the community in a different way – by looking for ways to make Charlotte healthier.
“Of the accolades in which Charlotte has earned high marks, (being) healthy is not one of them,” he said. “Yet more and more companies looking to relocate and more and more workers looking to plant roots in new communities are adding healthy criteria to their list of wants.”
Using “healthy Charlotte” as an organizing principle, participants on Thursday talked about how to bring about healthier workplaces and healthier lifestyles for children. They also talked about using the city’s health-consciousness as an economic development “branding” tool, engaging diverse communities in the quest for healthier lifestyles, using public policy to enhance the city’s health, and making better choices in transportation and green space planning.
In the breakout session on transportation planning, for instance, participants spoke of the need to make Charlotte friendlier to pedestrians and to incorporate green spaces into future development.
The next generation of residents will be less car-reliant, they said, and will value being able to walk or bike to work or play.
Ned Curran, president of the Bissell Cos. and a member of the N.C. Department of Transportation board, suggested city planners ought to give developers the right to build higher density projects in order to make buildings financially viable on smaller lots.
Curran sent ripples through the retreat Wednesday afternoon with an impassioned plea for the city and state to resolve the dispute surrounding Charlotte Douglas International Airport quickly.
City officials and state legislators have been battling for the right to control it. The FAA said Thursday that it is leaving to a state judge the question of whether the city should retain the right to operate it or whether a regional commission created by the General Assembly should do so.
Asked Thursday to elaborate on his comments, Curran said the Bissell Cos., developer of Ballantyne Corporate Park, is close to a decision on building another office tower – something he said Gov. Pat McCrory and economic development boosters have asked the company to do to help lure new corporations to the region.
But Curran added that the uncertainty surrounding the airport gives the company cause for caution.
“It’s a key selling point,” he said, referring to the airport’s attractiveness to business prospects. “All we’re saying to our government is let’s not have a protracted legal battle. Let’s have a resolution.”
Frazier: 704-358-5145; @Ericfraz on Twitter
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