Over the past few weeks, I enjoyed the opportunity to share “a look back” at our year with community and municipal organizations. In preparing these presentations, I admit my eyes were opened. Even though monthly I am tasked with tracking downtown improvements, I perhaps have grown numb to the many achievements throughout the year. And though that should not be the case, what a pleasant “numbness” to have! This “looking back” process has reminded me that our downtown is moving in the right direction faster and steadier than we can even recognize—and I’m happy to share the proof here.

Downtown experienced 5 net new businesses, ranging from quality services and new food to women’s clothing and boutique galore. Downtown experienced 6 creative art projects, such as painted pianos, glowing tree lights, outdoor open mic nights and, very recently, a calming labyrinth. Downtown experienced 3 new outdoor restaurant seating options, offering unique and memorable dining from the inside or out. Downtown experienced over 12 façade improvements, everything from updated signage and coats of paint to complete renovations. To no surprise, through these examples of growth, downtown experienced nearly $1,000,000 of public and private investment. That is truly remarkable and perhaps—in a good way—even numbing.

With an organizational lens, CharlotteRising has come a long way since last July, when its mission, vision, and strategies were just being developed. A year later, CharlotteRising has earned regional and national recognition for its downtown revitalization efforts.

CharlotteRising celebrated with the City of Charlotte for becoming Governor Snyder’s first Project Rising Tide graduate. A few months later, CharlotteRising was gifted the Creative Community Award from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. Michigan Main Street invited CharlotteRising to participate as leading panelists at the National Main Street Center’s annual conference. Windwalker Underground Gallery and CharlotteRising brought a regional event to downtown, pioneering Charlotte’s first “Arts Night Out.” Through an enduring process, CharlotteRising collaborated with CanDo! in launching the new community brand, truly making history. And gratefully, CharlotteRising earned regional and national grants totaling $120,000 for the Pocket Park.

Hopefully these examples of successes do not read as examples of arrogance, but rather as points of outstanding progress that CharlotteRising is so excited to discuss. Though fall is approaching swiftly, falling is clearly the last thing this downtown will do. As the future art piece in the Pocket Park will convey, our time is still now—and we’re ticking in beat.

Submitted by Dillon Rush

Executive Director, CharlotteRising