With the opening of service on the Lynx Blue Line extension, we mark the completion of the most transformational project in UNC Charlotte’s history. The distance between Center City and University City has just shrunk dramatically.
At the time I was first introduced to the project in the summer of 2005 by then-Mayor Pat McCrory, we could foresee that its promise of a rapid and direct alternative to expressways and busy surface routes would create the ideal way to tackle what was once known as the most difficult 10 miles in Charlotte. Light rail offers opportunity for our students, as they are connected like never before to game-changing experiences. Among the strengths derived from being in Charlotte are its terrific internships and employment opportunities. It’s no surprise that about 70 percent of our alumni stay right here in the Charlotte region, when so many of our students are exposed to professional opportunities before graduation.
The easy connection via the UNC Charlotte Main Station and the Ninth Street Station in Uptown will open even wider the door of opportunity to expand the undergraduate and graduate programs offered at UNC Charlotte Center City. Already we can see beyond our current projected enrollment goal of 35,000 by 2025.
During peak periods, trains will come and go from the UNC Charlotte Main Station at a seven-minute pace, making it possible for many more members of the Charlotte community to take advantage of our beautiful, 1,000-acre campus. It’s now easier than ever before to enroll in classes, earn a degree, attend a Charlotte 49ers basketball or football game, and take in a theatrical performance or concert at Robinson Hall. Likewise, the business and research communities now have greater direct access to both new and established opportunities to benefit from the University’s role as convener in activities like energy summits at our EPIC building and conversations within our PORTAL building about startups, technology transfer, and business-University partnerships.
The quickening rate of residential and business growth from NoDa to University City is likely to surpass the economic development light rail created in South End. In fact, in the fall of 2020, when we open our new state-of-the-art conference center and hotel at the JW Clay/UNC Charlotte Station at North Tryon, patrons of The Marriott at UNC Charlotte will be able to gain access to the amenities of Center City as easily as can be imagined.
Since the northeast location for Charlotte College (later to become UNC Charlotte) was selected by Miss Bonnie Cone 61 years ago on the site of what was then a dairy farm pasture, the University’s growth has kept pace with a remarkable trajectory shared with the city and region. The Blue Line Extension will accelerate exponentially the shared journey of the city and its public research university. We are connected like never before!
Philip L. Dubois
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte