|Alysia Osborne takes initiative of leading Historic West End|
|Director's task: Balancing past with development|
|Published Thursday, September 24, 2015 11:02 am|
|PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS III|
|Alysia Osborne, a coordinator at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department, is the new director of Historic West End, an initiative to attract new development and investment to northwest Charlotte.|
Historic West End has a new champion.
Charlotte Center City Partners named Alysia Osborne director of initiatives in communities anchored by Johnson C. Smith University. Osborne moves over from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department, where she was a long-range planning coordinator. Prior to that, she was a transportation planner at the Charlotte Department of Transportation and a city planner in Jackson, Miss.
“I’m essentially tasked with working with the community and local stakeholders – be that neighborhoods, businesses – anyone who has an interest in Historic West End to develop a vision and path for implementation to enhance existing neighborhoods and attract new investment in the area,” Osborne said. “What I plan to do is use my experience as a community planner to help me work with the community build that unified vision.”
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced a three-year, $1.5 million grant to create a business development initiative along the CityLynx Gold Line on Beatties Ford Road. The grant will fund revitalization efforts outlined in the Center City 2020 Vision Plan and the Urban Land Institute’s corridor report.
Charlotte Center City Partners is leading the effort to spur economic growth in Historic West End, which historically lags in business and infrastructure development. Recent investments by JCSU such as Mosaic Village and the Arts Factory as well as the streetcar project have sparked new interest in the area.
“We are thrilled to have Alysia join us as the quarterback of our Historic West End initiative,” Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith said in a statement. “We look forward to Alysia working with our Historic West End partners to create a plan that captures the unique qualities of this neighborhood and builds upon the resolve of the people and businesses who make Historic West End great.”
In addition to the challenge of boosting investment in the northwest corridor, Osborne has to navigate the fine line of gentrification. An influx of middle class neighbors in recent years have sparked concerns among long-term residents they’ll be priced out of the community.
“When we talk about gentrification, we definitely need to be fair about what’s happening because there’s a fine line between reinvestment and the irresponsible displacement of people,” she said. “I really want to gather the data and talk to the people about what’s really going on before making assumptions about what is actually happening.”
West End’s potential for new development is drawing comparisons to CCCP’s South End initiatives, but Osborne believes the northwest community will take on distinct characteristics of its own. Transportation upgrades have been identified as crucial components in both areas, with the CityLynx Gold Line streetcar, which debuted earlier this year, scheduled to extend to JCSU. Advocates contend the Gold Line will bring new investment and people, similar to what the Lynx Blue Line did for South End.
“The model for South End, there’s some good examples and good lessons learned there that can be applied to West End,” Osborne said. “But it’s a new initiative, new people, new area, lots of fresh energy and I’m excited about helping them develop their vision for their area. Can we learn from South End? Definitely. But I wouldn’t say a cookie-cutter approach would be applied.”
Stakeholders in Historic West End such as JCSU President Ronald Carter, West End Partners President J’Tanya Adams, Washington Heights community advocate Mattie Marshall and Biddleville/Smallwood advocate Dorothy Counts-Scoggins played a role in Osborne’s hiring.
“Alysia impressed us with her experience as a planner, but more importantly with her passion for community building and economic development,” Carter said. “The Historic West End community is eager to work with Alysia on this important initiative for our neighborhoods.”
Osborne, a native of Greenwood, Miss., earned her undergraduate degree in political science from Tougaloo College and a master's in urban and regional planning from Jackson State University, both in Mississippi. She is a certified planner in the American Institute of Certified Planners and a member of the American Planning Association and North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association. She is also a member of the Urban Land Institute.
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