Wilkinson Boulevard is representative of many aging auto-oriented landscapes. This area will be impacted by a local trolly line that may connect this commercial arterial to downtown Charlotte. Many of the now boarded up commercial buildings are structurally sound and could provide opportunities for rebuilding the area in ways that can foster pedestrian traffic, new residential and commercial tenants, and renewed social life.
2403 Wilkinson is one such potentially transformative site. The approximately 4.5 acre site is home to a defunct two-story motel (145 rooms plus meeting space and laundry facilities) with adjacent sites both to the east and west that cumulatively add up to almost 7 acres of under-developed urban space. In October of 2009, the Design + Society Research Center (now known as the City.Building.Lab) was asked to review the site for the potential reuse as a multi-use urban village that would potentially provide both housing and social services for south-east Asian refugees. Mental Health Association of Central Carolinas, Inc. serves this population and MHACC has determined that the federal relocation programs present significant challenges to the local refugee population. Given only 90 days of temporary housing and little to no support, these refugees are sent out into the city to find housing, jobs, and social networks on their own. MHACC aims to create a place that will provide a comprehensive set of services to meet the variety of needs of this immigrant group. Following a preliminary review of the site, we concluded that the former motel could serve such a need-- 2403 Wilkenson could serve as a model of urban repair and redevelopment focused upon affordable housing, social infrastructure, and agri-urban infill (agricultural urbanism as sustainable development).