David Clancy

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David is currently a senior, with Political Science as his major, Sociology and Urban Studies as concurrent minors, and is planning on graduating in May 2019. He previously had a show on Radio Free Charlotte, and has participated in competitions with the Mock Trial team.

The loss of Marshall Park is not without criticism

Second Ward is in the midst of massive changes to its urban fabric, from a shiny new office tower on Tryon Street, to apartments on Stonewall Street. Another change has also taken place near the governmental offices on 3rd Street, the sale of multiple parcels of land to a developer called BK Partners, LLC. It will culminate in the creation of Brooklyn Village, taking on the name of a neighborhood mostly lost to the “urban renewal” projects of the mid-20th century. These parcels include the old Education Center, the Robert L. Walton Plaza, various parking lots, and the entirety of Marshall Park. The previously mentioned buildings will hardly be missed: their exposed concrete structures and barren surrounding landscaping seem to repel those who venture near. Additionally, replacing surface parking lots with space that is actually productive should always be celebrated. This leaves us with the final area, which has brought some contention: Marshall Park. Is the loss of the park as bad as it seems?

Parks in cities can be important to the vitality of the greater community, as centers of community. The landscape designer J. B. Jackson said as much in his 1984 article titled “The American Public Space,” wherein he details the history and at the time contemporary use of parks in the United States. He described how people from different economic and social backgrounds could intermingle, “the spaces occupied by these groups, if only temporarily, constituted so many public places in the strictest sense: places where like-minded people came together to share an Identity.”

Indeed, I heard such praises for public space from At-Large Commissioner Pat Cotham, who sits on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners and opposes the project. “We should cherish parkland,” she said during our phone conversation, and when it comes to losing the 5 acres of the park, “that’s our gift to the future.” It should be noted that according to the project’s website, there will be 1.9 acres of green space incorporated into the design.

Another part of the project is affordable housing, which is another issue in and of itself. This is not just an issue of the availability of housing either, it is where this housing is located. Uptown, with its access to services, jobs, entertainment, and centers of government, is quite unaffordable for many Charlotte residents. In his 2017 book “The New Urban Crisis,” urban studies theorist Richard Florida states, “In America today, economic inequality is also spatial inequality: rich and poor increasingly occupy entirely different spaces and worlds.” This is true for many cities in the United States, including Charlotte.

Cotham stated that she thought this development project was, “an opportunity to make a dent in the problem,” and wanted to have 700-800 units set at 30% AMI (Average Median Income) level for disabled people, elderly, low income residents. As per the project’s website, Brooklyn Village is planning to include 107 units of affordable housing set at 80% AMI, which is more than the required amount for such projects. While there will not be massive numbers of affordable housing, it still will help those who will one day live in these areas. Its proximity to jobs and public transportation will have a greater impact on the upward mobility on these individuals than if they were forced to live farther away due to housing costs.

Overall, I do lament the loss of the park, especially when you think about the vast swaths of unused land in First Ward. It conjures up images of what this city could have been had it not been for so-called “urban renewal.” Ironically, we may not have had Marshall Park in the first place. Criticisms of the project are warranted, and one should always be wary of the prospect of development on the site of a public park. Still, the planned 1,070 residential units will bring opportunities to those seeking to live in an urban environment. It will bring life into an otherwise unremarkable part of Uptown, and I am especially interested in seeing the interplay between the pedestrians and the street level retail. As the door closes on the park, a new door opens for the city.

Editor’s note: This article originally quotes Pat Cotham as to say: “We should cherish parkland; that’s our debt to the future.” Cotham actually said: “We should cherish parkland; that’s our gift to the future.”

Should we keep the “UNC”?

As of now, there is a lot of activity surrounding the name of our university and whether to keep its prefix of “UNC,” (which is a common abbreviation for UNC-Chapel Hill). In a March 13, 2019 Niner Times article by Megan Bird, she explained that a petition on change.org addressed to Chancellor Dubois for an alteration of the name of UNC Charlotte had garnered 2,484 signatures, and it currently sits at around 2,686 signatures. The Student Government Association has also put a survey on the March 26-27 ballots to gauge student opinion on this issue, and Chancellor Dubois expressed his position on the matter during his Chancellor’s Forum questioning.
With all this commotion about a potentially controversial subject amidst my peers, I decided to take to social media and do some unofficial polling. On Twitter, I asked for current students to tell me their take on this situation. I received many interesting responses, including one individual who responded with the hashtag: “#DropOurSlaveName.” This is a reprehensible take on the situation, and I am glad everyone else kept a level head during my inquiry.
One such sane person was Grace Frendrick, current UNC Charlotte student studying political science. She points out that many schools in the UNC System, including NC State University and Appalachian State University, do not have the UNC prefix. She went on to state, “I support dropping the UNC because as one of the top three largest schools in the state we need our own identity.”
Jonathan Bradshaw, UNC Charlotte class of 2003, currently works as a brand manager. He agrees with changing the name, stating that many schools without the prefix are recognizable statewide, such as NC State and East Carolina University. “I can’t tell you how much it would mean to me personally and to the school financially to own its own brand.”
A student involved in the athletic program gave me this statement so long as I kept them anonymous. They are involved with the athletic programs and are concerned about how the school is seen to those out of state. “I’ve heard from multiple out of state recruits that when they initially hear of us they thought we were some satellite school of Chapel Hill located in Charlotte. From an athlete’s perspective that can be really frustrating.”
Ross Smith, UNC Charlotte Alum also wanted to share his opinion on the matter. He runs the Agent49 account on Twitter, and is helping maintain the change.org petition. He believes that the name change should be carried out to ensure that credit is properly given. “I want the university to stand on its own, and not have any staff or student accomplishments be given to other organizations.” He has also stated that in the working world, people do not recognize the school, “I’ve been asked if I was a Tarheels fan.”
However, not everyone who voiced their opinion supported a potential change. Wren Aubrey Latham, theatre major, believes that this debate is centered around “misplaced anger.” Wren is befuddled at the fact that, in such a turbulent time as this, naming disputes seem to permeate to the surface of discussion. “We could be using our privilege and outrage to rally behind real victims of sexual assault, racism, and bigotry en masse, but we’re doing this.”
Corey Smith, UNC Charlotte class of 2017, works for WTAP in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He believes the school is relatively new on the national scene and “…people are just now finally recognizing who we are outside of the region. Would just cause more confusion if we change the name.”
I believe that both sides in this debate have presented quite valid evidence for their sides. A name change would require an extraordinary amount of resources, and would be confusing in the early period of transition. Still, a new identity separate from any other institution will only help us in academic recognition, athletic recruitment and an increased value of our degrees. I am in favor of the name change, with the caveat that those who are actively supporting the change need to take more initiative in convincing others of this cause. In addition, they need to create a concrete plan for the transition as this burden might be too much to bear for the administration. Bringing a worthwhile plan might ease concerns, and create goodwill. If it is truly beneficial to the University, then you should be able to convince those who would oppose the change. This isn’t the most pertinent issue in these times, but since this institution will stand the test of time long after we are gone, providing an independent identity for our great institution would be a boon for now and in perpetuity.

Maintain our amphitheater

Nestled in between the endless oceans of parking near Lots 5 and 6; hidden behind gnarled trees and construction fences lies a scene of decay and neglect. Behind the Cafeteria Activities Building (CAB), there is concrete seating facing a blank wall. This forgotten structure has no signage nearby; however, it was clearly a theater.

Previously, this structure was not so secluded as it was surrounded by the former Martin Village dorms. No doubt this stage was used for a variety of uses. Its main purpose was probably for showing movies, the picture projected onto the blank wall of the CAB. The Student Union has taken over the task of showing movies with its indoor theater and other amenities.

As of late, the outdoor theater has fallen into a state of relative disrepair. Plants are growing in the cracks of the weathered foundations. Water pools at the lowest levels after large bouts of rain. In its current condition, the theater’s fate is bleak. The Belk Tower’s 2016 demolition shows that unmaintained concrete structures do not tend to stick around, though no blame should be put upon anyone for the lack of maintenance in the first place.

With so many complicated revitalization and construction projects on campus to manage, the outdoor theater is a low priority.

One may ask why we should keep this structure as it could interfere with the University’s future plans for the area. In a Feb. 20, 2018 Niner Times article by Jacob Baum, a map was published showing the massive redevelopment of the eastern portion of campus. Along with rerouting roads and building various new structures, the area that is now occupied with the CAB and the theater is depicted as being turned into a lake. While there is no doubt that this lake would be a nice addition to the space, it would lose the potential that an amphitheater inherently creates.

If the CAB was demolished and the theater seating left in place, we could have an amphitheater on campus for various events and lectures to be held. One use would be for the Department of Theatre, whose current outdoor production setup requires seating be placed around the stage by Robinson and Rowe. This takes away manpower from building the production’s set. An amphitheater would require little to no work in regards of seating, as the structure itself is mostly seating. Student organizations and greek life would also find use from an amphitheater. The space would provide large outdoor seating for events or meetings. The space could also be rented out by third parties seeking an outdoor event space.

The University does not need to scrap the idea of a lake. We can take note of another UNC system school’s campus in Wilmington, UNCW. One of the many features of their campus is an amphitheater which faces a man-made lake. The stage features simple outdoor fabrics to provide shade for speakers and performers. It is comparatively smaller than our existing theater, though we can bring this concept to a larger scale.

Another potential use of space is to incorporate nature within the amphitheater seating itself. Swarthmore College, located in Pennsylvania, has an amphitheater called the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater, where the terraced seats have a covering of living grass. In addition, the Scott Outdoor Amphitheater also has trees growing in the seating area, providing natural shade for event attendees. This nature motif is aesthetically pleasing and would allow the structure to be added to the already incredible botanical gardens on campus.

Our outdoor theater has great potential for our growing University. The East Campus Infrastructure Project is estimated to begin March 2019 and to conclude May 2020. That is just for the traffic improvements. It will no doubt take many years to fully create the changes expected to be made to that part of campus. As we revitalize the eastern area of our University, we should consider breathing new life into our outdoor theater. For now, though, the seats remain empty, waiting for the next show to begin.