Charlotte, North Carolina is an urban southern city that has seen rapid growth over the past twenty years. Home to Bank of America and Wachovia, Charlotte is the 2nd largest banking headquarters in the United States. It is considered by many to be the New Capital of the New South.
Rich with history, Charlotte was named for the wife of King George III. Trade and Tryon Streets in Uptown at one time was the crossroads between the north-south and east-west trade routes and today, four statues stand on each corner of the intersection in honor of it’s past.
Much of the city is beautifully landscaped. While the driving is a little crazy, and the traffic heavy in most areas of the city, the atmosphere is laid back and casual. It boasts 199 neighborhoods, many of which have easy access to the citywide Greenway system, a paved walking, running, jogging and biking trail. The following are a handful of the best neighborhoods in Charlotte, NC.
When my family moved there in 1998 we chose the University Area because of the close proximity to my husband’s place of employment. Named because of nearby University of North Carolina at Charlotte, this area has seen some of the highest growth.
Reasonably priced depending on needs, there are several single-family neighborhoods such as Radbourne, Norcroft, Brown’s Ferry, Davis Lake and Highland Creek. Most apartment communities are gated and offer amenities such as business centers, clubhouses, gyms, canoeing on private lakes, Greenway access and golf courses.
Close by, The University Shoppes offer patio dining overlooking the lake, paddle boating, summer music concerts, ice cream parlor and the Wine Vault, where you can sip wine by the glass or buy a single bottle of imported beer. If it’s shopping you want, two new malls have been built, Northlake Mall, north of I-77 and Concord Mills Outlet Mall is ten miles east on I-85 in the town of Concord.
Lowe’s Motor Speedway is also located just ten miles from the University area in Concord. Not only isNASCAR headquartered there, but also it’s home to the majority of driver shops which are open to visitors.
In the early 90′s the city saw residents spread out to developing suburbs, but in the last five years there’s been a population resurgence back into the Uptown Area. Uptown is downtown Charlotte, and lofts and high-rise condominiums are popping up all over the limited landscape of Center City. Many offer gyms and swimming pools, but newer buildings are capitalizing on the “all inclusive” trend, combining condo living with office spaces, restaurants and grocery stores. There are also old houses in Uptown in the surrounding neighborhoods of First, Second, Third and Fourth Wards. Price is dependent on which Ward you choose to live in.
Entertainment includes restaurants, bars, The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, home of the city’s ballet troupe, symphony, and touring Broadway shows, the main branch of the Public Library, and museums. Several times a year, a large section of Tryon Street is blocked off for different festivals including NASCAR’s Speedweek. Sporting events such as Bobcats basketball, Panthers football and Checkers hockey are within easy walking distance. The city is also in the middle of a land swap deal to bring minor league Knights baseball into Uptown. There is bus service, trolley service and the new light rail.
Within short driving distances of Uptown’s business district are the neighborhoods of Elizabeth, along Elizabeth Avenue, Dilworth, southwest of Uptown, and Myers Park, south of Uptown’s South End. All neighborhoods are tree lined and feature older restored homes. Myers Park has some of the grandest, most expensive homes. With criticism of the city leaders’ “gentrification” of historic areas, a new trend has been to bring the grand southern houses and craftsmen style homes back to life. Because of the proximity to the heart of Uptown, these homes can be a bit pricey. Besides the restaurants and entertainment of Uptown, all neighborhoods have their own committees that sponsor neighborhood events throughout the year.
Ballantyne is an upscale community on the NC/SC borders. It was one of the areas that saw a rapid growth in the 1980′s. It is said to have some of the best schools in the district. It offers a Country Club, restaurants and shopping. Ballantyne also has several neighborhoods varying in price from starter homes to million dollar estates.
Three hidden gem neighborhoods are the Plaza/Midwood Area, Central Avenue at the Uptown end, and the NODA (North Davidson at 35th Street) Art District. All offer unique dining experiences, antique stores, galleries, and unusual boutiques. The homes are less expensive and less expensive condos are being built. Even though these areas are not without crime, there’s been a real push to revitalize the three neighborhoods.
Charlotte is a pretty city with a lot of offer residents. It has a variety of museums, galleries, restaurants, shopping, nearby lakes, several parks and a rising ethic culture. The PGA WachoviaChampionship featuring the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson was born out of the population’s love of golf. It’s no surprise that dozens of quality golf courses are spread throughout the city.
However, in all honesty, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System has been a mess for as long as I’ve lived there. With such rapid growth, and an influx of immigrants, the school system has been struggling to keep up with demand and can’t build schools fast enough. With southern states paying $10,000-$20,000 less than northern states, it’s been a challenge to hire and retain qualified, experienced teachers. Luckily, the Char-Meck School Board was wise enough to reach far outside the south when hiring their new Superintendent, Dr. Peter Gorman. In the short amount of time he’s been in the position he has already implemented many positive changes.
The city does have an added bonus of being centrally located. The Blue Ridge Mountains are two hours to the west. The Atlantic Ocean is four hours to the east. Myrtle Beach and Charleston are six-seven hours southeast and Atlanta is five hours southwest.
Charlotte, NC is a lovely place to live, and caters to a wide range of income levels and interests. Banking and Hospitality are it’s two major industries and the crime isn’t as bad as most urban areas. Its laid-back attitude and subtle sophistication make it an ideal place to live whether you’re single or looking for a great spot to raise a family.