I sat down to grill the notorious development expert and lead development writer for Charlotte Agenda, Jason Thomas.
Jason has long been “obsessed with urban design and development.” He’s focused on future-proofing Charlotte, a city that he adores and has no plans to leave.
You’ve probably seen his articles breaking stories (or deals) on the Charlotte Agenda, where he started the campaign against ‘boring, beige walls’. He admits that he’s pivoted away from what he calls “The Beige Monster”.
He’s a self-described expert, so what makes him an expert?
“I’m a consumer, I’m of the target market of what these developers look for, anyway. I’m a millennial and I use these products that they’re building. If nothing else, I’m an expert who uses the products that they’re building with a little bit of background in architecture, urban development, and design.”
But developers can’t listen to every single consumer who wants to share their perspective, however well-informed it might be. So, I asked him why is he an expert?
Jason explained that he can emphasize and understand both perspectives. Yes, he’s a part of the target demographic, but he has a knowledge base akin to a developer or designer. He has a vision of Charlotte and he wants to share it.
“I do understand both sides. I have that urban development perspective. There are certain components that I don’t understand and don’t claim to be an expert on, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that having brown floors and walls across the street from a major transit station probably isn’t a good idea.”
With so much growth and development and Charlotte, it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room: regulation. Who should do it? And how much?
Jason isn’t one for huge government oversight, but he does believe the City Council should take the lead.
“I think the city does need to have a stamp, other than a rubber stamp, approving every single thing that comes across their desk, and I think a developer ordinance helps that.”
Jason is always talking about the pedestrian standpoint, which begs the question, isn’t Charlotte still a predominately car-based city?
Jason still has a car, himself, though when it eventually goes to automobile heaven, he won’t replace it. “A one-car household is becoming more popular; we are moving away from a car-focused culture.”
Jason loves Charlotte’s growth and how the city has become more accessible. In 2011, when friends came to visit, he really struggled to find cool stuff to fill out a weekend with him. Now, Charlotte has 19 different Poke Bowl restaurants.
“With the Charlotte Agenda, you can cherry-pick what you want now”.
So, the question then is what is on Jason’s Chamber of Commerce Tour?
He takes his visitors on a mini tour of his favorite breweries to indulge in the growing craft beer movement. For his friends with a cocktail-preference, the plethora of bars in Uptown are perfect. According to Jason, no tour would be complete without the White Water Center or Carowinds Theme Park. And because of his love for urban development and future-proofing, he’ll always incorporate the Light Rail.
Jason’s also a huge fan of bike sharing. “I have all four apps downloaded on my phone.” He – like the rest of us – is not a fan of the way they’re strewn about town, but believes a natural middle ground will emerge after the pilot program.
Though he’s not a writer or journalist by trade, he’s learned a lot about being a media maven at Charlotte Agenda. He acknowledges that he’s sometimes broken news a bit too early, and when it’s caused deals to go south, he doesn’t receive as many tips. When he reaches out for confirmation, he prefers to receive “no, hold off” rather than radio silence.
“If I get ignored, I’ll put you on blast”.
He’s focused now creating relationships with his developer sources, and becoming more aware of what is genuinely ready for public consumption.
We wrapped things up with some quick fire questions which turned into some fantastic, fun facts.
Jason is most excited for Optimist Park in pre-NoDa from a developer standpoint. He’s also really pumped about the possibilities in LoSo, though refuses to call it that.
Although he loves South End personally, he’s sick and tired of hearing about its buzz.
He was quick to name the Rail Yard in South End as really upping their game in Charlotte.
Find and connect with Jason on Instagram @JasonThomasCLT