The Peirce Report: Shaping A Shared Future

A Generation Ago It Would Have Seemed Absurd To List Charlotte With Atlanta, Miami, Denver, Dallas, Seattle. No Longer. Now, As The Carolinas’ Undisputed Economic Capital, Where Is The Charlotte Region Headed In The 21st Century

Sunday, September 17, 1995
The Charlotte Observer
Written by Peirce, LaRita Barber, Alex Marshall, and Curtis Johnson

This region is a place where people perennially assume a powerful bunch of bank presidents and other men (always men) call the shots. As the big oaks of business and civic leadership have fallen across America, Charlotte has seemed a case of arrested development. The mysterious group of business folks called ”The Vault” (they met at a bank) has long faded in Boston. The once-powerful Citizens Council has turned warm, fuzzy and conciliatory in Dallas. The immodestly named ”Phoenix Forty” has retreated from dominant leadership.

A Scary Trip To The Suburbs


My wife and two friends and I were lured out of our secure neighborhood of Ghent recently by the promise of seeing “Rushmore,” the latest Bill Murray movie. The closest theater was Greenbrier Cinema 13, so we climbed into a car and made our way down the interstate to the wilds of Chesapeake.

The cinema we chose is one of the big new movie complexes in Hampton Roads. Its innovation is not only stadium seating on some screens, but to package what is basically an entire amusement park around its 13 auditoriums. You enter this big box behind a strip shopping center and find yourself ushered into a gymnasium-size hall. Its two floors hold not only long rows of elaborate video games, but bumper cars, laser tag, miniature golf, skeeball and more — all amid waterfalls flowing over fake stone.

A Path Not Taken


Sometimes I like to mull over the choices we have taken as a region and then, in a masochistic mood, try to pick the absolutely worst one, savoring the special flavor of failed dreams and paths not taken.

My personal favorite for all-time blooper is Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Suffolk opting to split off in the 1960s into mega land-area cities and cut off Norfolk’s expansion. In one fell swoop, we separated rich fro poor, city from suburb, growth from decay, and thus insured that it would be vastly more difficult to tackle common problems and challenges together. We built a political fence through our common garden.

A Bicycle Can Get You From Here to There

That’s Good For You, Good For Everyone Else.

Wednesday, May 26, 1999

I’m going to talk about bikes today. So I’m going to speak very slowly, so my colleague Dave, “I’ll get out of my car when they pry my cold dead hands from the steering wheel” Addis, will perhaps understand me.

It’s funny about bicycles. When I suggested a while back accommodating them more on local roads, Addis, who has become the leading supporter of the traffic-jammed, suburban status quo, could only think of Bejing or Bombay. Yellow and brown hordes on rusty bicycles jostling for space on dusty roads with chickens and stray dogs yapping at their heels. Who wants that?

Wrestling the Beast called Sprawl

Written for the Conference: “Critics Talk About Smart Growth”
May 10-11, 2000
at The Pocantico Conference Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund
Sponsored by The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in cooperation with
The Institute for Urban Design of New York City.

By Alex Marshall

In 1957, John Keats wrote the satirical portrayal of life in the suburbs, The Crack in The Picture Window. It tells the history of the then burgeoning suburbs by telling the history of “John and Mary Drone,” who take up residence in a series of awful developments around Washington D.C. In its scathing, vitriolic language, it was a rifle shot across the bow of the battleship of suburbia that was proceeding at full pace. Keats wrote in part:

Whither Virginia Beach?


Virginia Beach. The promised land.

It glistens in the sun, a shimmering mecca of backyards, beaches, prosperity and space. A wide open terrain where schools are good and crime is low, a destination, a place to start a life or fulfill one.

It still has that reputation to many, even as the city enters its 37th year and faces trend lines that dispute much of what I just said.

Old Cities vs. New Urbanism: The Beat Goes On

AIA Architecture
May 1998
by Alex Marshal

When the faithful, the curious, and the skeptical gathered in Orlando, the debate over Celebration and the design philosophies of New Urbanism and Neotraditionalism twisted and turned for four days. Although there were dozens of speakers, the show stopper for many was the debate Friday night between Andres Duany, FAIA, New Urbanist leader and advocate, and Alex Krieger, FAIA, director of the Urban Design Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Held in the Disney Cinema on the grounds of the Disney Institute, Duany and Krieger sat on stage in straight-backed chairs and traded comments and retorts. John Kaliski, AIA, of Santa Monica, Calif., moderated. He had a tough job controlling his eager participants.



[Editor’s note: This version of the article “Eurosprawl” is slightly different than what ran in Metropolis Magazine in January 1995.]

The cheese selection was enormous. Giant wheels of Gruyere, tiny pucks of Chevre and every other sized cheese in between were stacked on refrigerated shelves that ran half the width of the store. The wine, separated by region of course, took up one-and-a-half aisles. This nod to French cuisine in this discount supermarket the size of a football field was one of the few indications you were in Lyon, France, and not say, Connecticut.