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UNC Charlotte Campus Walking Tour
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The UNC Charlotte Main Station is the northern terminus of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Lynx Blue Line. This light rail service connects UNC Charlotte’s main campus with its Center City Campus and extends to I-485, 18.9 miles to the south. The 9.3-mile section that links the main campus to uptown Charlotte, known as the Blue Line Extension (BLE) opened for service on Friday March 16, 2018. On that day UNC Charlotte’s Main Station was packed with approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff eager to be among the first to take the 22-minute ride to Center City and to enjoy the many festivities organized along the line.

The distinctive sculptural seating located in the plaza on Cameron Boulevard between Main Station and Wallis Hall was commissioned by CATS and designed by Boston artist Mikyoung Kim, who also created the images on the station platform shelters. The undulating perforated stainless steel seating becomes even more dynamic at night when a choreographed lighting program is activated by pedestrians tripping motion sensors. The platform images, which are inspired by maps and time zones, respond to the shifting light cast by the daily movement of the sun shining through the glass. The installations are intended to communicate a message of movement, transformation, and flux.

UNC Charlotte cheerleaders and mascot Norm celebrate the opening of the LYNX Blue Line Extension March 16, 2018

UNC Charlotte cheerleaders and mascot Norm the Miner celebrate the opening of the LYNX Blue Line Extension on March 16, 2018. The Lynx Blue Line connects UNC Charlotte's main campus to the Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte Center City, and beyond to I 485 on the outskirts of Pineville, North Carolina.

Crowds of students, faculty, and staff gather to celebrate the opening day of the LYNX Blue Line Extension, March 16, 2018

Crowds of students, faculty, and staff gather at UNC Charlotte Main Station to celebrate the opening day of the LYNX Blue Line Extension, March 16, 2018. Wallis Hall can be seen in the background.

UNC Charlotte Main Station

UNC Charlotte Main Station platform with LYNX Blue Line train pulling in. The station is the northern terminus of the Charlotte Lynx Blue Line.

Light Rail Main Station, UNC Charlotte

University Communications photograph of UNC Charlotte Main Station with Wallis Hall in the background. Photograph is a still from a video showing an aerial view of the station.

LYNX Blue Line Extension groundbreaking, July 18, 2013 uptown Charlotte.

Chancellor Philip L. Dubois and Mayor Pat McCrory gather with city officials for the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction on the LYNX Blue Line Extension in uptown Charlotte, July 18, 2013.

LYNX Blue Line Extension groundbreaking celebration, July 18, 2013 uptown Charlotte.

UNC Charlotte mascot, Norm the Miner, celebrates the groundbreaking for the LYNX Blue Line Extension in uptown Charlotte on July 18, 2013.

Construction along the LYNX Blue Line Extension, March 27, 2014.

Construction along the LYNX Blue Line Extension, March 27, 2014.

The opening of UNC Charlotte Main was the culmination of over three decades of work by Charlotte officials and the university to better connect the campus to the center city. UNC Charlotte’s location almost ten miles north of Uptown was originally chosen based on the availability of sufficient land to allow for institutional expansion and proximity to future major thoroughfares. However, as the university’s fourth chancellor, Chancellor Philip L. Dubois lamented, the distance between the main campus and Uptown was seen as “the most difficult 10 miles in Charlotte,” and had discouraged opportunities for town and gown interconnectedness. Chancellor Dubois recalled that soon after he became chancellor in the summer of 2005 Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory strongly urged him to support the idea of extending the Lynx Blue Line north to the university campus. At that time, the construction of the southern leg of the Lynx Blue line connecting center city to I-485 on the outskirts of Pineville was just getting underway and the university had purchased a parcel of land at East 9th Street and North Brevard for the future site of UNC Charlotte’s Center City Campus – now the Dubois Center.

Mayor McCrory recalled that Dubois’ response to his request was: “bring it on”. Previous concerns had been that bringing the rail line onto campus would disrupt the quiet pedestrian nature of the University, and that it would be preferable to build the rail line adjacent to, but not on to the campus. Charlotte Area Transport, however, felt strongly that it was important to build a station on campus to assure sufficient ridership for cost effectiveness. By 2006 a route was chosen that suited both parties, bringing the railway along North Tryon Street well to the north side of campus to avoid disruption to campus walkability, yet still siting the Main Station within a short distance of the future Student Union (opened in 2009), and close to student residence halls. 

The next several years were spent building public and campus support for the project while lining up the budget to fund it. Ultimately the BLE cost a total of $1.16 million. Fifty percent of funding for the BLE was provided by the Federal Transit Administration, twenty-five percent came from the state of North Carolina, UNC Charlotte donated $6 million in land and improvements, and a Mecklenburg County half-cent sales tax covered the rest of the cost. The architecture and engineering firm STV was the principal designer for the project, which added 11 new stations, improved sidewalks, and green landscaping to the Blue Line. Four of the stations were designed to provide extensive park-and-ride facilities. 

Ground was broken for construction of the new line on July 18, 2013. CATS divided construction work for the project between numerous contractors, including Balfour Beatty US and the Lane Construction Corporation. Although the project met significant challenges due to complexities of working along the Norfolk Southern Railroad, moving utilities, and bringing the rail line up the median of North Tryon Street, construction was completed by the federal government’s deadline of March 2018.

For Chancellor Dubois, bringing light rail onto campus lined up perfectly with the University’s strategic objective to deepen community connections. Throughout the planning and construction, Dubois stressed the opportunities that light rail would bring to the Charlotte community and to UNC Charlotte. In testimony to the Metropolitan Transit Commission he stated:

“It’s a sound investment, good for the public, good for the environment, good for economic development, good for land use, and good for a community that continues to struggle with residential sprawl and strip mall development.” 

And in his annual letter to campus in Spring of 2018 he declared: 

“This opens unlimited opportunities for the entire University community in terms of new access to internships and employment for students; programs and events at both campuses; sports, cultural and entertainment options; and much more.”

Development opportunities along the BLE began with the construction of the line itself which generated more than 9,000 jobs and infused an estimated $285 million into the local economy. By the time of the line’s completion, significant numbers of apartments, offices, restaurants, shops and other businesses had been constructed along the new rail corridor. Development boomed in particular in the neighborhoods of Optimist Park, NoDa, and University City, showing no sign of easing up. However, the 2020 census has revealed that development associated with Charlotte’s Blue Line rail corridor, north and south, is displacing people in historically black and low-income neighborhoods due to gentrification and steeply increasing land values.

Messina, Susan. All Aboard: Light Rail Arrives at UNC Charlotte, UNC Charlotte Magazine. April 1st 2018. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Jeffers, William Thomas. The Making of a Research University, James H. Woodward and UNC Charlotte 1989-2005. Charlotte, NC. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2016.

Testimony of Chancellor Phiip L. Dubois to to the Metropolitan Transit Commission, October 25, 2006, Chancellor’s office

Paul Nowell. Light-Rail Extension From Center City To UNC Charlotte Gets Major Funding Commitment , Inside UNC Charlotte. October 16th 2012. Accessed September 9th 2021. 

Officials Break Ground On Light Rail Extension To Campus, Inside UNC Charlotte. July 18th 2013. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Light Rail Burrows Underground, Emerges On Campus, Inside UNC Charlotte. March 22nd 2016. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Light Rail Connects Us: Chancellor, Students Take A Test Ride, Inside UNC Charlotte. November 9th 2017. Accessed September 9th 2021.

All Aboard: Check Out Four Celebrations Scheduled For Light Rail’s Opening Day, Inside UNC Charlotte. March 9th 2018. Accessed September 9th 2021.

University City Development, Inside UNC Charlotte. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Israel, Mae. "County rail system ahead?." The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte) August 8th 1985. , Metro sec.

Cimino, Karen. "Rail route: UNCC, Yes—Crossing I-485, No." The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte) June 29th 2006. , B sec.1B.

Harrison, Steve. "A Momentous Arrival - After The Opening-Day Hoopla Ends, What's Ahead For Lynx?." The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte) November 24th 2007. , Main sec.1A.

Harrison, Steve. CATS hopes to avoid construction pitfalls, The Charlotte Observer. April 23rd 2014. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Harrison, Steve. Lynx Blue Line to UNC Charlotte won’t open in August as planned, The Charlotte Observer. February 27th 2017. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Harrison, Steve. CATS announces opening date for Blue Line Extension, The Charlotte Observer. January 9th 2018. Accessed September 9th 2021. .

Portillo, Ely. The Blue Line extension means ‘we won’t recognize this corridor in the next 10 years, The Charlotte Observer. March 4th 2018. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Harrison, Steve. After a decade of planning, Charlotte’s light-rail extension finally opens, The Charlotte Observer. March 16th 2018. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Wright, Will L.. How Charlotte’s light rail sped up a ‘takeover’ of historically-Black neighborhoods, The Charlotte Observer. August 20th 2021. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Mikyoung Kim Design, City of Charlotte. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Marani, Matthew. Hear My Train A Comin': Charlotte's light rail extension connects UNC Charlotte to the city center, The Architects Newspaper. March 26th 2018. Accessed September 9th 2021.

LYNX Blue Line / STV, STV. Accessed September 9th 2021.

LYNX Blue Line Extension, Lane. Accessed September 9th 2021.

Charlotte Blue Line Extension, Balfour Beatty. Accessed September 9th 2021.,in%20traffic%20on%20I%2D85.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

UNC Charlotte

UNC Charlotte

UNC Charlotte

UNC Charlotte Communications, Division of University Advancement, Media Assets

UNC Charlotte Official Flickr, photograph by Wade Bruton

UNC Charlotte Official Flickr, photograph by Wade Bruton

UNC Charlotte Official Flickr, photograph by Wade Bruton