PMA Consulting, LLC

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Lakewood Trolley – Converting Vision to Action

By Katie McDowell

A recent planning study for Lakewood Trolley, Inc. (LTI) illustrated the focus PMA brings to each project: how do we convert a compelling vision into an actionable strategic plan that is attractive to funders?

1) The Vision

Lakewood Trolley first approached PMA with a clear vision of connecting uptown Charlotte and West End neighborhoods through a heritage trolley service.  A committed board chaired by real estate developer Greg Pappanastos had spent two years developing their plan, meeting with neighborhood associations, and engaging strategic community partners. They turned to PMA to objectively access community support for their vision and develop a plan to build organizational capacity and implement fundraising strategies to meet short and long-term fundraising goals.


PMA Senior Consultant Cindy Clark worked with LTI board members to develop a case for support which could be shared with community leaders.  She met with key stakeholders representing both the private and public sectors to explore community perceptions and identify potential challenges LTI might be facing.

As this project unfolded, it was clear the Lakewood Trolley would positively impact the community on multiple levels.  It will impact economic development, celebrate social and cultural diversity, preserve Charlotte’s rich streetcar history, showcase its beautiful greenways, and promote heritage tourism.

“Using the same tracks that were once owned by Piedmont & Northern Railway, Lakewood Trolley will enhance Charlotte’s quality of life by providing a sense of place, as well as economic, educational, social, and cultural opportunities,” said Clark.

“Supporters believe the trolley will serve as a catalyst for focused redevelopment, helping to increase property values and create economically diverse neighborhoods,” Clark said.

The trolley route will parallel the beautiful Stewart Creek Greenway, a natural, shaded pedestrian route which extends 1.25 miles from Cedar Street near Bank of America Stadium to State Street in the Seversville neighborhood, home of Martin Luther King Park and the historic Savona Mill, which is currently under development.

“From a cultural standpoint, it will be a destination for both local residents and visitors in Charlotte,” Clark said. “It will connect people who live along the railway to uptown, and will help uptown residents enjoy parks in the West End neighborhoods.”

The LTI board envisions a trolley that will transport fans to and from Panthers and Knights games, create a venue for corporate outings, birthday parties, and other celebrations, and provide access for uptown residents who will enjoy hiking, biking, and relaxing in parks along the route.

2) The Plan

Cindy Clark’s work helped to identify key stakeholders and potential funding opportunities, as well as any possible challenges.  PMA stresses the importance of early involvement for potential funders in any capital campaign.  “Giving investors an opportunity to share their ideas and perspective and any potential concerns in a confidential setting builds trust and confidence, both keys to fundraising success,” said Clark.

Based on feedback from the interviews and LTI’s goals and resources, along with PMA’s experience and understanding of the local fundraising environment, PMA was able to make recommendations to the LTI board to help them develop a strategic plan to achieve fundraising success.

LTI’s plan to return to service the beautifully restored Car 85, the last streetcar to operate on Charlotte’s historic streetcar tracks, is moving forward.


“Lakewood Trolley, Inc. was founded in 2014 by stakeholders who share a vision to connect Charlotte’s vibrant West End neighborhoods and the amenities of uptown Charlotte through a heritage trolley service. Our board engaged PMA Consulting to explore the feasibility of our plan and help develop a fundraising strategy. PMA Senior Consultant Cindy Clark was instrumental in this effort, and was able to connect with key community leaders to gain valuable feedback as well as provide recommendations which will help us achieve fundraising success. The PMA team assessed campaign readiness and provided strategic direction for a comprehensive plan to meet our short and long-term fundraising goals. Our board will definitely benefit from PMA’s extensive fundraising knowledge, experience, and understanding of the local and regional fundraising environment.”

-Greg Pappanastos, Board Chair | Lakewood Trolley, Inc.