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Mobile Workshops: Tuesday, November 13

2018 AARP Livable Communities National Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina

A fish-themed splash fountain in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina

Photo by Melissa Stanton, AARP

Take Mobile Workshop #6 to see this spot. Since we'll be visiting in November, we're hoping for perfect autumn weather and not temperatures so high that we'll want water sprayed on us by sculpted sea creatures.

We're putting together several Mobile Workshops (aka: field trips). Some will leave the conference hotel at 2:15 p.m. with others departing at 3:30 and one heading out at 5.
        Mobile workshop sign-ups will take place during the conference check-in period on a first-come, first-served basis. The workshops are free and space is limited. Photographs of several workshop locations can be seen in this "Join Us in Charlotte!" slideshow.

A tentative list of seven Mobile Workshops and one Activity Workshop appears below. 

1. Take the Train and Ride a Bike

Departure: 2:15 p.m. | Duration: 2.5+ hours

Learn about and ride the LYNX Light Rail to see the many transit-oriented developments (apartment buildings, mixed-use developments) and neighborhoods that have been popping up along the LYNX Blue Line. Workshop participants will board the light rail at Stonewall Station, which is connected to the convention hotel, and take it northbound to the Parkwood Station for a brief discussion about the area and Mecklenburg County’s greenway trails system. (Parkwood is the closest transit station to a trail, specifically the Little Sugar Creek Greenway.) The return ride will pass the hotel for a departure at the East-West Boulevard Station in Charlotte’s South End, where bike-share bicycles will be waiting at the Sustain Charlotte offices for taking a 2 mile ride along the Charlotte Rail Trail to Scaleybark Station (which happens to be just steps away from an eight-story Carvana car vending machine). Field trippers can then choose to take the light rail northward to the conference hotel, or bicycle the 2 miles back to the Sustain Charlotte offices, or break off from the group in search of dinner (there are lots of restaurants) or to sightsee in and around the South End. 

2. Fun for Older Adults and People of All Ages

Departure: 2:15 p.m. | Duration: 2.5+ hours

Participants will travel by charter bus to visit the Marion Diehl Multigenerational Play Park, which is located adjacent to a county recreation center and senior center. Provided to the community by Southminster, a senior housing and continuing care organization, the park features a cushioned surface, fun play structures for children, space for walking laps and fitness equipment that is pre-calibrated to provide individualized weight lifting-related exercises suitable for older adults. There’s even a stationary bicycle that will charge a cell phone as a user pedals. The park’s equipment consultant will be on site to explain the play space’s many age-friendly features. En route to the park, mobile workshop participants will watch a video about the project featuring placemaking and parks expert Gil Penalosa of 8 80 Cities.
        The outing’s second stop will be at the First Ward Park in Uptown Charlotte, where attendees will learn about the private-public partnership that succeeded in turning an unused area into a popular, multigenerational park and public space. As a bonus activity, Southminster, which runs the local chapter of the global Cycling Without Age program, will bring and provide rides in the “trishaws” that are used by trained volunteers (called “pilots”) who take older adults who can no longer bicycle on cycling rides to get them out outdoors and, as the program touts, let them once again feel the wind in their hair. Since the field trip ends right in Charlotte’s active commercial and residential district, participants can choose to explore the area (including the popular 7th Street Public Market, an indoor market of local shops and eateries) and then walk or take the light rail back to the convention hotel.  

3. Explore a City in a Forest: Charlotte's Tree Canopy

Departure: 2:15 p.m. | Duration: 2.5+ hours

Charlotte's tree canopy is the city's signature natural resource. In 2011, the Charlotte City Council adopted a "50% Canopy by 2050" goal to preserve and enhance the presence of street trees. This combination bus and walking tour led by TreesCharlotte — a public/private nonprofit collaboration created in 2012 to "grow and diversify Charlotte’s urban forest by promoting tree stewardship, growing Charlotte’s tree canopy and educating how to plant and preserve trees" — will introduce participants to the heritage and promise of Charlotte's canopy efforts. Since partnerships are critical to the tree canopy's creation and care, this mobile workshop goes behind the scenes of a project that brought together a government service, a house of worship, a nonprofit and 40 volunteers to plant a 35 tree orchard, as well as about a dozen canopy trees. The outing includes a tour of the orchard in Charlotte's West End and then (after a short charter bus ride) Charlotte's historic Elmwood Cemetery and arboretum.

4. Play Ball! 

Departure: 2:15 p.m. | Duration: 2.5+ hours

Sports teams and their arenas are prominent institutions and venues in Center City Charlotte. This mobile workshop is an opportunity for conference attendees to visit the BB&T Ballpark (home of the popular Charlotte Knights, a Triple-A minor league baseball team), the Bank of America Stadium (Carolina Panthers football) and the Spectrum Arena (Charlotte Hornets basketball). Parts of the behind-the-scenes tour will be led by Ron Kimble, who as Charlotte’s long-time but now retired deputy city manager was responsible for much of the city’s economic development and the public-private partnerships that turned the uptown area into a well-used, transit-friendly sports and entertainment hub. Although the venues are within walkable distance of one another, for efficiency’s sake, participants will be transported by charter bus. 

5. Housing for All

Departure: 3:30 p.m. | Duration: 2+ hours

Learn how the Double Oaks neighborhood that was devastated by urban renewal policies of the 1970s and devolved into a high-crime, low-income community, has been transformed into a 98 acre, mixed use, mixed income neighborhood with on-site social services, affordable rental apartments, and single family, for-purchase houses and townhomes. Now called Brightwalk, the North End neighborhood was developed by The Housing Partnership (also called the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership), a private, nonprofit housing development and finance corporation that expands “affordable and well-maintained housing within stable neighborhoods for low and moderate income families.” The community is LEED certified, and the area’s redevelopment included the cleanup of a brownfield site and capping of a longtime dump so it could be safely transformed into a community green space. Participants in this mobile workshop will take a bus tour of Brightwalk and meet with Fred Dodson, Jr., CEO and executive vice president of The Housing Partnership, to hear about the neighborhood’s past, present and future, and learn how the partnership’s housing model works and is being replicated. 

6. Arts and Parks Urban Tour

Departure: 3:30 p.m. | Duration: 1.5+ hours

Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s public art program was initiated in 1981. Two decades later, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners and the Charlotte City Council adopted ordinances that allocate 1 percent of eligible capital investment funds for public art. This guided walking tour of Charlotte's Avenue of the Arts will leave from the convention hotel and do a roughly 2 mile loop of the Uptown Charlotte area to see and learn about the local urban parks (The Green and the Romare Bearden Park are stops), iconic sculptures and public art installations. This mobile workshop is a great way to see and explore Charlotte’s cultural arts neighborhood, which in addition to museums and creative outdoor spaces features many shops and restaurants. 

7. Lean Livability: Making Lovable, Livable Places for $500 or Less

Activity start time 3:30 pm | Duration: 1.5+ hours

Learn about "lean livability" interventions during a breakout session that will be held inside the conference hotel from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. Then head to an outdoor location directly across the street to create and install permanent "placemaking" features that will serve pedestrians and other passersby. Working in collaboration with local partners (including the City of Charlotte), participants should be ready, to roll up their sleeves, grab some tools and dive in to livability! 

8. See the South End 

Departure: 4:45 p.m. | Duration: 1 hour or several!

The Charlotte Rail Trail (a walk-bike trail) and the LYNX Light Rail has helped to inspire development and lots of “placemaking” in Charlotte’s South End. This outing is designed for conference attendees who want to attend a session every time one is offered but also want to see at least some of the surrounding area. The excursion will involve a one-mile rail trail walk or two-stop light rail ride to visit the neighborhood around the Bland Street Station, which in addition to shops and diverse restaurant options has a swing set and seesaw (for people of all ages), a “hexpong” play table (think ping-pong playable by six people) and a “Before I die …” chalkboard — inspired by the work of New Orleans artist Cindy Chang — where passersby can write a sentence about a goal or goals they want to achieve. After the brief group sightseeing sampler, participants can head to dinner and then take the light-rail back to Stonewall Station, which is directly connected to the convention hotel.

2018 AARP Livable Communities National Conference 

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A red pin marks Charlotte, North Carolina, site of the 2018 AARP Livable Communities National Conference

Illustration by 123rf