Charlotte needs a new, non-crappy slogan that reminds us to work to be great

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I believe it was Summer 2008 when I heard the fun-loving, juggernaut of creativity, BooneOakley, was going to be creating a slogan for Charlotte. I was a fledgling creative, a year past graduating from college, had just wrapped up my first year “in the biz” and had decided to follow a girl to New York City.

Then I remember when I heard it, “Charlotte’s Got A Lot.” It certainly was unexpected. It wasn’t the typical boasting you might expect from a campaign meant to promote a city. It was completely literal. There are many cities that have a “ton,” (Charles-ton, Day-ton, Hous-ton, San An-ton-io) but not a single city of over 100,000 people that had “a lot.”

What did it mean past the literal? That Charlotte had a lot to offer? Well, the super pared down definition of a city is “a place that has ‘a lot’ of people and ‘a lot’ to offer.” So this could apply to literally anywhere.

In 2008, Charlotte was in the most illogical boom of its adolescence. Donald Trump was promising to build a new tallest building on South Tryon Street, and banks were too big to fail. Developers thought they could find more than 100 people to spend $3M+ to live in a condo uptown, one developer promised 20 future residents a free Porsche to buy an obscenely expensive condo, with a car elevator that whisked you and your new car right to your front door. Everyone was a ”home flipper“ all of a sudden, and everyone wanted a slice of ”The New South.”

Charlotte was a city on the rise; we thought we were invincible. We weren’t.

The truth of the matter is, Charlotte didn’t have anything tangibly unique to offer past its ranking in “Monetary Assets held by Banking Companies.” Even the iconic canopy of oaks that we hold so dear can be found elsewhere. After all, our little sister, Raleigh, claims the title of “The City of Oaks” already.

The city just doesn’t have “a lot.” Plenty of cities have a lot more breweries, taco restaurants, and a lot more of the beige boxes that seemingly are becoming the city‘s identity. There is so little left of what makes a city great, like remnants of its history, and we lose more and more of it every year, replacing it with things that are more “Instagrammable.”

Charlotte has the disadvantage of coming to prominence in a time when cars were king, and the definition of “urban renewal” was to push out all the non-white residents, and demolish anything that just wasn‘t shiny enough. Fully committed to “urban renewal,“ we demolished theatres, department stores, hotels, and retail establishments that had been operating for generations.

Just in the past few years we’ve lost Park Terrace Theatre, Double Door Inn, Tremont Music Hall, Query-Spivey-McGee Building and pretty soon will lose the Coddington (then Polk) Building. The ’80s and ’90s were even worse, losing Belk’s original department store, the Independence Building, Hotel Charlotte, and the Masonic Temple.

We whitewashed our identity for the foreseeable future and never learned the value of historic preservation. The times when local government and wealthy residents would develop cultural assets together in partnership are long gone, and these assets seem impossible to rebuild.

Charlotte has always been a city that wanted to be world class, but lacks the cultural assets that sets those cities apart. We are the big kid on the block, full of ideas, full of aspirations, but a little too austere and frugal to make those aspirations come fully to fruition. For instance, we want a world class greenway system, but it’s been painfully slow to develop. We built a extension to our single light rail line, but the infrastructure and connectivity lag way behind in the immediate area.

Full of piss and vinegar, we think we can take over the world, but we get no support from the NCGA. Thanks to their obsession with the rural parts of the state, Eastern NC gets our roads, Asheboro got our zoo, and we don’t get our share. Charlotte accounts for more than one-third of the State’s Gross Domestic Product, but you‘d never know it based on how the state “shares the wealth.“

What makes Charlotte unique isn‘t the extent of its offerings. We are the Queen City, the crown jewel of ”The New South.“ We are a city adept to transition. We‘ve gone from gold, to textiles, to banking. We survived a banking crisis that should have completely sunk us, and came out of ”The Great Recession“ diversified economically and ready to compete. We were the first mid tier city in the South to develop a light rail system. We are a city that simply “wants it” more than anyone.

After we decided we “got a lot” and after the DNC, I think Charlotte settled in, and got a little complacent. We thought we had arrived, and we could let things come our way for the first time ever. We forgot that to be world class, you still had to act the part. We got lazy. The most recent example was the Amazon pitch video that everyone around town collectively rolled their eyes at. Was that really the best we had to offer?

Between our wrongful punishment for HB2 (seriously, not our decision, world), the riots after the Keith Lamont Scott shooting and being passed over by Amazon, we‘ve been in a two-year-long funk.

Its been about a decade since “Charlotte‘s Got a Lot“ debuted, and it’s time Charlotte gets a new slogan that doesn’t just tell others that we think we are great, but reminds us that to be great, we have to work diligently toward our ultimate goals. Reminds everybody that we are the Queen City, and while we might have some deficiencies we will try like hell to be great anyways.

Image: Observer files

24 COMMENTS

  1. You can thank Mr Hugh McColl with the pushing of blacks out of 2nd Ward and moving the transit center from in front of his Taj McColl. Also had a large hand in creating the banking mess that almost sunk our country, yet this visionary “leader” is considered one of the greatest minds to ever grease the palms of local politicians. When your idols are clowns like this fool, then your city is doomed.

    • The demolishing of Second Ward came about long before Hugh McColl had any noticeable power in Charlotte, just to correct the historical record.

  2. Or, Charlotte can just not have a slogan.
    Also, enough with the “I’m a creative.” That’s more annoying than Charlotte’s slogan.

  3. This is among the dumber columns I’ve ever read. Like the writer, i am a native Charlotte ex-pat. For family reasons (married a non Carolinian), I am unlikely to return. But when I do return to see friends and family, I don’t see the negative insecure place this New Yorker sees. I see a vibrant growing city that continues to attract newcomers.

    The young guy should take note that Charlotte does NOT have a “canopy of live oaks”. The term live oak refers to evergreen oaks (often draped in Spanish moss) found in places like Wilmington and Charleston. Charlotte (and Raleigh) oaks are rarely evergreen. Small detail, but it is always helpful for pontificating “know it alls” to do a bit of basic fact checking when judging others.

    Charlotte does need a new slogan. But the gratuitous bashing in the article is not appropriate.

  4. Charlotte keeps growing in population and jobs. A lot of this population is coming from “creative” places where, while yes, they are more hip, cool, historic on and on, they are unlivable for many because they are so expensive. No one place is going to be everything for every type of person. The author clearly prefers NYC, so is OK with the trade off of cost of living vs having more urban entertainment options. Personally, I like Charlotte as it offers affordability, enough for me to do in terms of entertainment, and an economy that supports a good career and professional growth.
    Most cities have issues, Charlotte isn’t immune from that, and work is being done on every aspect from transportation to affordability to providing more entertainment options. Find me a city where funding public transit or affordable housing is a cake walk…. find me a city that hasn’t lost beloved local clubs.
    Charlotte DOES offer a lot to a lot of people. It’s a good quality of life with a lot of options for a relatively affordable price and options include both urban living AND rural options within a reasonable commute. Find me a mini farm within an hour of Manhattan for less than $1 million. Or DC. I’d agree that it’s probably not the top pick for “creatives”, but then again, their top picks are places where the ability to own a home and raise a family require a pair of six figure incomes and some luck.
    It’s really kind of strange when people who don’t live in Charlotte, who don’t see it, and have elected to NOT make it their home feel the need to provide negative commentary. It’s fine that Charlotte didn’t work for you and you moved to NYC. A lot of people found that NYC didn’t work for them and moved to Charlotte. So I’d stay in your lane and fix the issues of your new home instead of being negative about a place you left.

    • MC – your response comes across as having a chip on your shoulder. I’ve lived in a number of places (Columbia, Houston, Dallas, Nashville and now Charlotte). I enjoyed all of them and they all had things to offer. However, all of them could be improved in some ways. I agree Charlotte, while livable and having almost anything you would want, is pretty bland and lacks a true identify (especially for a top 20 city in population).

      I grew up in the South but too many times there is this attitude of “if you don’t like it leave” or “how dare you complain about this place” that sickens me. People shouldn’t be so defensive and understand there is room for improvement.

  5. Had me until you started whining about how rural Carolina doesn’t “deserve” the funds it’s getting, honestly how can you go from “we tore down everything that wasn’t shiny :((” to “NCGA isn’t giving us enough money to tear down the things that aren’t shiny :((“

  6. Yes! Very well said, MC.
    Before I realized he didn’t live in CLT, but was “from CLT”, I was going to tell him to just move. Enough with the negative commentary. Charlotte is my home town and I’m excited to see the changes happening.

  7. We also need to ditch this “Queen City” crap…

    We have absolutely zero connection in the city other than name and a few statues because of the name. There is nothing royal whatsoever about this place. All it does is confuse people who haven’t heard it before.

    Also, didn’t we fight a war to break association from those royals?

    It just screams “We have nothing at of note here so, in total grasping for straws, we’re going to make a slogan out of…. this.”

  8. Wow, someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Does Charlotte have issues? Of course (the least of which might be a “new non crappy slogan”). Has it grown tremendously in almost every area you negatively painted over the past 25 years? Of course. Has it made mistakes along the way? Of course. Do we need to look toward the future for our city? Of course. Change has occurred and will continue to even though it’s at a pace that evidently doesn’t suit you creative types. For all the negatives, this city does have a lot and will continue growing. But be careful what you wish for. I can’t wait for your column in a few years when you’re whining about the ridiculous home prices, high cost of living and choking traffic.

  9. ‘Charlotte’s Got a Lot!’ always seemed apologetically cringe-worthy and defensive to me. I think it would convey the true spirit and identity of Charlotte if instead, the slogan said ‘Charlotte’s Got a Lot, Surely Does!’ 😉

    I’ve never understood why Raleigh calls itself ‘City of Oaks.’ It looks like it has at least as many pines as oaks.

    Charlotte spends way too much time worrying about the coming and going of major league sports. The lack of a major, let alone renowned research university is far more damaging and consequential to Charlotte than the loss of any sports team or its taxpayer-funded stadium.

  10. “Charlotte’s Got A Lot” ranks up there with one of my hometown’s worst Chamber of Commerce slogans – “Move over New York, Apple is our middle name – Indianapolis” UGH!!! That being said, there is some validity to Mr. Sealy’s comments. There is a total lack of history in the downtown area except for some of the churches still operating there. Other cities have grown and yet retained their historic buildings and/or facades at least. Indianapolis is in the process of developing the old Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in the downtown area of Indianapolis. All designs had to incorporate the art-deco buildings on the campus which will be a multi purpose project of housing, retail and office space. I think there has been some realization about working with the old buildings, but it is a little too late. How about “Charlotte – The Weather’s Nice”

  11. Can we ditch this “Queen City” crap too?

    There is nothing royal about this place. Nothing in the city resonates with “queen” whatsoever except for a factoid that doesn’t really matter about how the place was named hundreds of years ago. We fought a war to get rid of our association with those people!

    It screams of a nickname that was latched onto because there was literally nothing else. Grasping at straws.

  12. “Charlotte: We’re pretty close to Charleston.”

    “Want to meet people in Charlotte? They’re only a foot away from your bumper.”

    “Charlotte: The tax money stays within the I-277 loop.”

    “Charlotte: Come see our art. It’s all modern art. Come see it. Please.”

  13. “Charlotte’s Got A Lot” of what? That is a dangerous opening! A lot of crime? A lot of slums? A lot of disgusting people? A lot of Yankees? A lot of traffic? Just watch the evening news to see what Charlotte has a lot of. That slogan just opens a “hornet’s nest” of possibility!

  14. Anyone who has seen the Appalachian is Hot, Hot, Hot video would say that Amazon bid video was not nearly as bad as it could have been!

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