He’s watched Charlotte change drastically for 50 years. Now he’s helping add to that growth

Multiple cranes from construction sites continue to dot the skyline of Charlotte, NC during June 2017.
Multiple cranes from construction sites continue to dot the skyline of Charlotte, NC during June 2017. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte has changed drastically over the past 50 years, both physically and socially. Charlotte native and developer Daniel Levine, 56, has witnessed these changes first-hand.

“As a native Charlottean, and one who plans to live here for the balance of my life, I feel a deep responsibility to building and adding to the growth of Charlotte,” Levine said. “Quality design has a way of uplifting the entire community where everyone feels good about their city.”

A city’s development is a cycle -- buildings are built, knocked down and rebuilt. Levine is contributing to the growth of Charlotte, spearheading a major transformation of First Ward and the intersection of Providence and Fairview roads in south Charlotte through his company, Levine Properties.

When asked what he was hoping to create in these areas, he said, “I want to go back to the future. Once upon a time cities were organized as mixed use and mixed income neighborhoods where everyone lived, played and worked in a proximity that was conducive to a successful city. I want to be a part of place making that contributes to live work play environments that are part of existing neighborhoods.”

Charlotte has grown dramatically in recent years and you can see the change in the roads. Until I-277 was finished in the 1980s, Levine said, Charlotte was the largest city without a beltline. Turning Independence Boulevard into a freeway has been a more than 25-year process.

City roads have also been a part of the change. Roger Stacks, owner of Preferred Parking and a friend of Levine’s since childhood pointed out that Carmel Road and Providence Road, now both four-lane roads, used to only have two.

But even with all that growth, Charlotte has a ways to go to become a big city, Levine said.

“I don't think Charlotte is a primary city,” he said. “I think it's in the top tier secondary cities … (but) we are growing and in 20 years, our population will have doubled which will bring in new jobs and strengthen Charlotte's economy.”

Moira Quinn, the chief operating officer at Center City Partners and a 50-year resident of Charlotte, says the biggest change she has seen is in the population.

“We've seen a lot of people move here from all over the country, often without jobs, because our economy is robust,” said Quinn. “In 1970, Charlotte's population was about 241,000. Today, it is just over 865,000.”

With growth comes challenges. Social changes are very important to how a city is perceived, as we’ve seen with the city’s LGBT community and House Bill 2, the controversial LGBT state law that was repealed earlier this year.

“I am a live and let live kind of person,” Levine said. “When I was growing up, there was a social stigma associated with being different and you were shunned by society, belittled and even treated poorly.

“Over the past 50 years, as a city, we have done a better job with acceptance.”

This story was written as a part of the Charlotte Observer’s high school journalism Explorer Post. Questions? Email Corey Inscoe at cinscoe@charlotteobserver.com.