University City

Help rate your neighborhood

The city plans to redraw boundaries for its biennial neighborhood study in part to answer complaints about sometimes assigning disparaging or inaccurate labels to communities.

To improve its neighborhood rating system, the city's 2012 Quality of Life Study will grow from 173 to 394 neighborhood profiles.

The new study also will expand into Mecklenburg County, which will account for some of the new study areas.

Once approved, the Quality of Life Study data will shape decisions about city programs, services and other resources. The city will present proposed changes and hear comments at public meetings that begin this week. Some concerns have already surfaced.

"We heard several citizen complaints that the study was skewed and the data wasn't accurate, said Justine Gazzola, a spokesperson. "The city recognized it wasn't as accurate as it should be, especially since we use the data for important decisions."

Strong, vibrant neighborhoods are the backbone of a prosperous city, local officials say. The Quality of Life study was first made in 1997 and is updated every two years to rate Charlotte's neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods were sometimes grouped rather than evaluated separately. The study rated them according to 20 variables, such as median income, housing code violations, and dropout and violent crime rates.

The tally of scores would assign one of three labels: stable, challenged or transitioning up or down. Low scores pointed to neighborhoods in need of support.

The 2010 Quality of Life analysis rated 88 Charlotte neighborhoods as stable, 58 as transitioning and 27 as challenged.

The labels often stuck even if one neighborhood in a group showed positive movement.

"A neighborhood that was labeled challenged had a really hard time moving to the next level," Gazzola said. "They had a difficult time showing improvement." This year, the city will consider expanding or changing its ratings criteria, Gazzola said. Suggestions will be collected during public meetings this month and through emails and phone calls.

UNC Charlotte's Metropolitan Studies Institute will carry out the study early next year, with a report due in 2013.

The final proposal for the new study must be approved by the City Council's Housing and Neighborhood Development Committee, which is expected to review the document this summer.

Even if the study's results still describe some communities in northeast Charlotte as challenged, it won't be the worst thing that could happen, said Carol Burke, treasurer for NorthEnd Partners, which advocates for improvement and redevelopment of the North Tryon Street corridor.

"It brings attention to your goals," Burke said. "If you're working to change the issues, someone will help you move from challenged to stable."

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