The information in our study covers the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, North Carolina-South Carolina, Metropolitan Statistical Area.
In each community, the Knight Soul of the Community study identified factors that emotionally attach residents to where they live. Some of these community characteristics that drive attachment were rated highly by residents, and are therefore community strengths while others were rated lower, making them opportunities for improvement. This information can provide communities a roadmap for increasing residents’ emotional attachment to where they live, which the study found has a significant relationship to economic vitality.
Despite the continuing economic challenges, residents’ attachment to the Charlotte area remains basically flat in 2010.
In the Charlotte area, social offerings (entertainment infrastructure, places to meet people), openness (how welcoming a place is), and aesthetics (an area’s physical beauty and green spaces) are the most important factors emotionally connecting residents to where they live.
Aesthetics, particularly the natural beauty of the area is perceived as a community strength.
Openness is still an area needing improvement to increase attachment. Welcomeness to families with children was rated significantly lower in 2010 whereas young adults without children are perceived as the most welcome group. Gays and lesbians are seen as the least welcome group.
Residents 18-34 years old are now once again the most attached age group, barely edging out the oldest residents 55 years old and older. African-Americans remain the most attached racial/ethnic group. Additionally, resident attachment increases with income and education levels.
The local economy was rated significantly higher in 2010, however the economy is still not a key factor emotionally connecting residents to their community. However, perceptions of local leadership and education systems are significantly lower.
Thoughts on the 2010 findings in Charlotte
By Susan Patterson
Susan Patterson was Knight Foundation's program director in Charlotte in 2010.
Reading the Gallup study results for Charlotte, I was not surprised that the area’s physical beauty is one of the reasons people are so attached to this place. Whenever I fly in and see the green carpet below, I instinctively sigh in contentment.
I fear, however, that we’re taking our tree canopy for granted. Twenty years ago, Hurricane Hugo did a serious pruning job on many of the oaks in our oldest neighborhoods. Now, drought, old age and development pressures are taking their toll as well, and the city’s tree-planting efforts can’t keep up.
I can’t imagine Charlotte without towering oaks arching over streets and backyards, but it takes years to grow them. We need to be planting trees now so we don’t lose the beauty that fuels our passion for this place. Just imagine what would happen if we all decided to plant a tree today. We’d be green today and tomorrow.
Q&A with local official Robert Bush on the findings in Charlotte
In addition to publishing thoughts from our program directors in the 26 Knight communities, we're also reaching out to other local civic leaders. This is an email interview with Robert Bush, Senior Vice President for Cultural and Community Investment at the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte, N.C.
What jumped out at you from the results of the study?
The high ranking of aesthetics. We sometimes forget that this is a beautiful place to live both from natural and built perspectives. Visitors and newcomers frequently comment on this beauty – from the tree canopy, skyline, parks, public art, etc. and how Charlotte has done a much better job than other cities in attention to this critical part of making this an attractive place to live, work and play.
Did any of the Gallup findings surprise you?
No, in fact the Gallup findings mirror in many ways the findings of other studies done in the recent past.
What do you consider to be the key takeaways from the findings?
We can’t take anything for granted and there is critical work that still needs to be done. We have made great strides in building a great city; however, we face challenges that still need our attention – real leadership (both political and civic); need for basic services (affordable housing, public transit); and social capital/openness (it is hard to live here if you are different – racial and ethnic minorities, gays and lesbians; singles).
Do the findings reinforce the value of any local initiatives and, if so, which ones?
Yes, there is a close tie between the findings and the Crossroads Charlotte effort that is working to address many of our deficits.
What questions does the study raise for you?
If we have known these are the issues that need to be addressed (and have heard it time and time again), why haven’t we had the civic will to address them?