Image courtesy Wikicommons/Nan Palmero
Lorna Allen, PLA is the Senior Urban Designer and Planning Project Coordinator for City of Charlotte Urban Design Center
Charlotte, North Carolina is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. People are flocking to The Queen City for its lower expenses, better quality of life, and friendly business climate. But all that growth takes careful planning, and putting in the work is Lorna Allen with Charlotte Urban Design Center. The Charlotte Planning, Design and & Development Department formed the Charlotte Urban Design Center in 2020 to consolidate its urban design consultation, placemaking and community engagement services under one roof.
Lorna has her hands full, whether it’s integrating public art, creating an urban arboretum, building better transportation hubs or increasing the city’s urban public spaces.
“Throughout our business corridors and transit centers, we want to maximize every opportunity for history, art and storytelling,” she says.
This spring, the city council will adopt the Charlotte 2040 Plan, a new comprehensive plan for the city. They also just formed an Office of Sustainability for the City of Charlotte to reduce their carbon footprint.
“As a city with this much growth and pressure for development, we needed to take a minute to evaluate our priorities and vision,” says Lorna. “There has been a tremendous amount of cooperation among many groups to make this happen.”
Charlotte’s Placemaking Program
Charlotte has one of the first designated Placemaking Programs in the Southeast. The Urban Design Center is helping communities around Charlotte improve underutilized public spaces.
“Organizations and communities can apply for a grant, and we provide technical design assistance,” says Lorna. “We’re currently helping a church implement a community garden. We help create plazas, parklets and smaller neighborhood-scale public spaces.”
The city recently opened The Green at Prosperity Village, on one acre of land on the north side of town on a leftover right-of-way.
“Now we have a park with food trucks, an amphitheater for performances, outdoor movies and just a place for the community to gather,” she says. “We want these spaces to be utilized, loved, and really reflect the communities they represent.”
Lorna has been in Charlotte for seven years, and lives in Belmont Neighborhood, where she loves being close to local restaurants and breweries. She grew up in a family of growers in Fayetteville, North Carolina and through their work, she became interested in landscape architecture. She received her degree in landscape architecture from NC State. She is also part of the Leadership Charlotte Class of 42. Over the years, she’s learned many lessons but perhaps the one that stands out is accessibility.
“There’s a lot of really good design out there, but if it’s not accessible and can’t be enjoyed by the people, then it’s falling flat,” she says. “Our work is so focused on making sure there is buy-in and leadership. Whatever we bring to fruition is theirs and it’s something our community can be proud of.”