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First major project to transform Charlotte Rail Trail lights up

The holiday season is over but South End is still lighting up. Thanks to a collaboration between Charlotte Center City Partners and Duke Energy, the Duke Energy substation next to the Bland Street light rail station was illuminated for the first time last night. So was the nearby Beasley Broadcasting radio transmission tower.

“This is the first of what we believe will be several major projects we will roll out over the next six months or so,” said Adam Rhew, CCCP director of communications.

What to expect of this ongoing spectacle

– A delightful glow from 5:30 a.m. until sunrise, from dusk until midnight Sundays through Thursdays, and from dusk until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

– An added safety benefit to an otherwise dark area, but with the lights going dark at a reasonable hour. “We want to be good neighbors,” Rhew said.

– A quality similar to that of the Duke Energy Center. The 12 LED floodlights (Phillips fixtures) can display 16,000 colors and feature 13 programmable scenes. The programmers: Phillips Color Kinetics, which was also behind the Duke Energy Center, the Bank of America tower and the Empire State Building, among other projects.

Duke Energy Center – Charlotte Skyline
Patrick Schneider

How does this fit into CCCP’s vision for the Rail Trail?

First off, the vision, according to Rhew, is to make the Charlotte Rail Trail a vibrant, urban, linear park. Currently, it is 4.5 miles long and connects 10 neighborhoods from south Charlotte to uptown. In addition to making the trail a connector to destinations, CCCP wants to make it a destination in and of itself.

“We want people to interact with the trail in a meaningful way,” Rhew said.

That has already been happening, thanks to public art like the Before I Die Chalkboard between the Bland Street Station and the East/West Station — work that has been supported by a $412,000 grant from ArtPlace America.


Where did this vision even come from?

“We take a lot of inspiration from the High Line in NYC,” Rhew said. “Lots of people have visited that park and get what we’re trying to do when we make that comparison. It’s a great example of an urban, linear park.”


So can we request color changes?

The Duke Energy Center allows people to submit color requests (to honor charity events, for example) via email. For now, Rhew said, “Duke Energy and CCCP will have the ability to control the light scenes. We’re looking into the idea of letting people request to have the lights a certain color.”

What can we do beyond staring at the lights?

Buy some limited-edition 704 Shop t-shirts featuring the new Charlotte Rail Trail logo. A portion of the proceeds will help fund future Rail Trail projects.

Flipping the switch on this project, Rhew said, is “re-energizing this portion of the trail — and re-energizing the whole trail.”

Photos: Katie Toussaint, Fargo.