Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Charlotte is Still a Pretty City, Even in a Monsoon

After only a few days to settle in after E's Cedar Point full, I packed up and road tripped from Jacksonville to Charlotte, NC for a conference.  I work for a business improvement district, also known as a BID (similar to a Downtown Improvement District, or DID).  This is also why I always capitalize "Downtown."  Most major cities and Downtowns have BIDs, and for the most part, you probably aren't even aware that we are there.  BIDs and DIDs are formed by Downtown property owners agreeing to to be self-assessed for an additional tax on their property values in order to fund improvements in the district's boundaries.  We are often responsible for events, permitting, Downtown advocacy and more, depending on a BID/DID's focus.  Wikipedia has a much more concise definition.  Anywho, like most trades, we have an industry organization, the International Downtown Association, and once a year representatives from BIDs, DIDs, merchant's associations and more gather in a particular Downtown to talk shop, learn and network.  This year's annual conference was, obviously, in Charlotte.

When we go somewhere, we aren't just looking at the shops.  We are critiquing, admiring and speculating over features like trash cans, wayfinding signage, cleanliness, the ratio of retail to restaurant to business to residents, population density and more.  Our mission is Downtown revitalization in this age of pervasive suburbia, so we like to see what other Downtowns are doing and how we can apply that to our own.  It was my first industry conference, and though I handle the digital side of our marketing, which was sparsely covered, there was still a lot to learn and a lot of ideas to bring back.

The opening reception was held at the Nascar Hall of Fame, a place I did not think I would ever darken the doorway of.  While not a Nascar fan, I do have a soft spot for old cars, and it was neat to see the restored grand dames of racing from the 50s and 60s.  The closing reception was held at a trio of art galleries, which was really fabulous.  Charlotte was just a gorgeous Downtown - vibrant nightlife, thriving restaurants and just really clean and well maintained.

A cool pocket park devoted to literature
The downside of this otherwise productive weekend was the rain.  We stayed at the Downtown Hilton, which fortunately had an attached YMCA with a lovely long line of treadmills and a bank of t.v.'s tuned to close-captioned CNN and HGTV.  Thanks to being at a conference in the midst of ever-present rain and marathon training, I logged a lot of time on those treadmills, though all I really wanted to do was run outside through the Downtown streets.  I really love the opportunity to explore new cities on foot.  On the other hand, I have never been able to stomach more than three miles on a treadmill, and I did that in spades this weekend with a 4 mile, 5 mile and 3.5 mile run.  The only downside was missing my long run for the week.  I had a 10 miler scheduled for Saturday and decided to break it up into 5 and 5, due to the way the conference was scheduled that day.  I got in the first five, but in the afternoon plans changed and the day snowballed away from me.

The exterior of the modern art museum
So, it is what it is.  I'm proud of myself for sticking pretty closely to my plan while I was gone. I have a tendency to flake on runs or not plan well for them, time wise, when I travel.  It feels good to know my discipline is just getting better and better!  

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