ULI Columbus News

Embracing Growth Series: Lessons from Austin, Charlotte, and Nashville

Central Ohio is in the midst of transformation, with the population expected to grow by about one million by 2050 and unprecedented levels of urban reinvestment and infill development taking place.

While this is exciting for residents of the Columbus Region, challenges will certainly accompany such drastic change. With this in mind, ULI Columbus recently hosted expert guests from Austin, Charlotte and Nashville to discuss how those peer cities dealt with their own explosive growth over the past decade. Is there a way to better mitigate the effects of population growth on housing, transportation, social equity and economic development?

We’ve compiled highlights for those unable to attend the Embracing Growth Series: Lessons from Austin, Charlotte, and Nashville. One common thread: social and economic disparities must be addressed to create prosperous, healthy and happy communities. We hope you find it interesting and instructional. And we look forward to seeing you at the next ULI Columbus event!


The metropolitan area grew from 2.22 million in 2010 to 2.5 million in 2017 and will reach an expected 2.72 million in 2022.

Debra Campbell, Assistant City Manager for the City of Charlotte, says the attitude about growth is not to stop it but rather to manage it.

“What we wish that we would have done is to expect higher quality development. We focused a lot on quantity. It should be more people-centric, people-focused in terms of how we developed some of our major campuses.”

She says a police-involved shooting actually led to a period of introspection about social and economic disparity.

“We thought, are we truly making investments that have broader economic and community benefits? Because if you don’t think social disparity is going to crush your community, you’ve got another thing coming.”


The metropolitan area grew from 1.67 million in 2010 to 1.89 million in 2017. It is expected to grow to 2.06 million in 2022.

David A. Bailey, Principal with Hastings Architecture in Nashville, suggests the region could have done a better job investing in public spaces.

“We have done some, but it’s more fringe and not pervasive enough. It’s really starting to be evident now.”


The metropolitan area grew from 1.72 million in 2010 to 2.08 million in 2017 and is projected to reach 2.37 million in 2022.

Terry Mitchell, President of Momark Development in Austin, notes there are common-sense solutions to some affordability challenges. For example, a tree ordinance that applied even to affordable housing in Austin was costing about $3,000—about the price of a bedroom. It was scrapped, making affordable development more appealing.

Terry suggests Austin 10 years ago should have been more cognizant about the location of housing and jobs. Austin decided to focus job growth in the core of the city because of environmental reasons.

“We didn’t think about transit.”

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