the land of North Carolina’s tallest office towers and its largest
business centers, bankers count their assets in trillions, local
celebrities drive the fastest cars (NASCAR) and the preachers take their
message well beyond the church doors (Billy Graham).
Yes, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have all of the ingredients of a
major metropolitan center. Charlotte is second only to New York as a
major financial center, and seven Fortune 500 companies now make their
homes here. The powerful economic engine that is Charlotte created
almost 80,000 jobs over the past 10 years.
Beyond the big numbers, Charlotte still has a friendly atmosphere, where
a stranger is just as likely to ask you where you attend church as for
directions to the shopping mall.
There’s a special sense of community at work in North Carolina’s
biggest city that has led Charlotte on a path to become a dramatic
example of all that the New South has to offer.
“I tell people who are considering moving here that Charlotte has a
small-town feel yet all of the attributes of a large city,” says
Graham Denton, North Carolina state president of Bank of America and
second vice chair of NCCBI. “It’s also an open community with
newcomers encouraged to take an active role, not just people who’ve
been here a long time.”
There is a strong philanthropic ethos, with the tone set by those at the
top. Charlotte’s gleaming center city — that’s downtown to those
not from here — is in part attributed to the vision of former Bank of
America chair and CEO Hugh McColl Jr. McColl used his influence and his
bank’s money to build a place where businesses wanted to locate and
people wanted to live. Venerable retailer John Belk, whose family
department store is a North Carolina icon, was elected to four terms as
Charlotte’s mayor in the 1970s. His vision, in part, led what was
Douglas Municipal Airport on a path to become one of the nation’s
Today, that tradition is still carried on by Ken Lewis, CEO of Bank of
America; Ken Thompson of Wachovia; Ruth Shaw, president of Duke Power;
and others who lead their enormous corporations while also leading the
boards of such organizations as the United Way of Central Carolinas and
the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
“My predecessors taught me that we welcome everyone with open arms,”
says Pat McCrory, Charlotte’s mayor for the past nine years. “But we
tell people once the come here they have to get involved. You can’t
just come here to make money.”
The spirit of giving back extends beyond the city’s business brass to
its citizens who have provided the manpower to accomplish some amazing
tasks. Mecklenburg County hosts the largest Crop Walk in the country and
is home to one of the biggest chapters of Habitat for Humanity, which
has built more than 500 houses in 18 years.
“Clearly our strengths include the pro-business environment, coupled
with the fact that Charlotte is the most caring community I’ve ever
lived in,” says Tony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont Community
College, who has lived here 13 years.
Says Krista Tillman, North Carolina president for BellSouth, “In a
large city people can hide and stay on their campus. Charlotte has a way
of reaching out and insisting that you get involved.”
Fifth Largest Urban Region
If you look at a map of Mecklenburg County, it looks a bit like a wheel,
with Charlotte’s central business district — known as center city
— at the hub.
Charlotte is at the center of the nation’s fifth largest urban region
with 6.8 million people within a 100-mile radius of the wheel’s hub,
though the city itself is mid-sized with a population of almost 600,000.
Charlotte takes up most of the land of Mecklenburg County, which has a
total population of just over 800,000, including the city. Ringing
Charlotte are the county’s six other incorporated towns of Pineville,
Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, Mint Hill and Matthews.
Charlotte owes its name to German-born Queen Charlotte, wife of
England’s King George III; the county takes its name from her
birthplace of Mecklenburg. Legend has it that locals chose the names in
hopes of smoothing tense relations with the king over taxation.
But Charlotte had an independent streak from the start and became the
first town and county in the nation to declare itself free and
independent of England. That independent spirit continues today.
Headquartered in Charlotte
Charlotte Chamber of Commerce data as of 2003.
*Lowe's is included due to its plans to relocate its
corporate headquarters to Mooresville. Lowe's is
not counted when ranking Charlotte against other cities.
**Family Dollar's headquarters is in Mecklenburg County
but not within city limits of Charlotte. Family
Dollar is not counted when ranking Charlotte against
“We don’t have a legislature bragging about us. And South Carolina
sees us as competition,” says Charlotte Chamber President Carroll
Gray. That sense of standing alone has pushed Charlotte to stand
tallest. There’s something alluring about a city that attracts 50,000
new residents every year.
The region grew up around the crossroads of two Indian trading paths
known today as Trade and Tryon streets, the intersection everyone knows
as The Square. Fittingly, that’s where Bank of America’s 60-story
tower now rises as a symbol of the New South’s rise in commerce.
Uptown Charlotte evolved over the past decade from a strictly 9-to-5
business center into a vibrant place for living, eating, shopping and
world-class entertainment. Public and private investment in the center
city has been astounding, with $500 million in projects under
construction now. They include a new NBA basketball arena, a new county
courthouse and parking garage, a new children’s library and theater,
and numerous other projects.
Not just a place to work or go for entertainment, Charlotte’s center
city has burgeoned with homeowners over the past decade, growing from
5,500 residents in the mid-1990s to more than 8,500 today. Uptown
neighbors range from NASCAR star Jeff Gordon and Bobcats owner Bob
Johnson, who live in million-dollar condos, to first-time homebuyers
who’ve purchased more modest lofts in the growing Garden District.
Living in uptown is all the rage, and the trend continues. A new
16-story condo tower called Courtside, located near the NBA arena, has
already nearly sold out, as has The Park, a 21-story building being
planned with 107 units.
Center city, the nexus of Charlotte’s business community, also
provides its arts and entertainment district and its government core.
“A strong center city is critically important to the growth of the
area,” says BellSouth’s Tillman, who is a board member of Charlotte
Center City Partners, a spin-off group of the Charlotte Chamber that
advocates uptown growth. “If you think of the region as a wheel,
center city is the hub, and as the hub gets stronger the spokes get
One of the center city’s most recent achievements is the opening of
Johnson & Wales University, a prestigious culinary and business
school that has turned out chefs such as Emeril Lagasse.
With an $82 million investment, the school opened its Charlotte campus
in September. Outpacing expected enrollment, it interjected the energy
of thousands of college students into the uptown’s pin-stripped
business environment. By 2007, JWU is expected to enroll more than 4,000
JWU came to Charlotte after announcing two years ago that it would close
campuses in Charleston, S.C., and Norfolk, Va. Food service company The
Compass Group contributed at least $12 million to attract the school to
Charlotte, while another $17 million came from public incentives.
“We recognized a few years back that to be a top-notch city we needed
a university uptown,” says Tillman. “It was quite fortuitous that at
the same time we recognized the need Johnson & Wales was looking at
moving their campus. Having college students in the city means that many
more pizza parlors and laundromats.
There’s a liveliness that comes from their 24/7 presence.”
Office development in uptown has been brisk — to say the least —
over the past decade. The Hearst Tower, the state’s second tallest
building at 46 stories, opened in January 2002. It was the latest
contribution by Bank of America in a decade-long investment in uptown
Charlotte that totals more than $2 billion.
Now Wachovia is considering a mixed-use project in uptown that could be
as tall as 25 stories with 700,000 square feet. It would house the
bank’s offices and also create a new uptown presence for Wake Forest
University’s prestigious Babcock Graduate School of Management,
currently in SouthPark.
Big City, Close Neighborhoods
Even as it emerges as a major urban center, Charlotte and Mecklenburg
remain a composite of many smaller communities, each of which has
developed its own identity with the common theme of managing uncommon
growth and maintaining their character.
To the south of Charlotte’s uptown are some of the city’s oldest
neighborhoods of Myers Park, Eastover and Dilworth, desired for their
stately homes and quaint Craftsman bungalows, sidewalks and tree
Further south is SouthPark, an area named for both the shopping center
located there and the offices and homes that have grown around it. An
enclave of upscale offices, SouthPark is the second most populated
business district in the state.
Here the city shows off some of its finest shopping, including the
ever-expanding SouthPark mall, Phillips Place and a host of specialty
To the east of Charlotte in Mecklenburg County are the incorporated
towns of Mint Hill and Matthews, which offer a relatively close commute
to Charlotte’s business centers while affording a more pastoral
setting for homes.
That has meant growth in homes and services, including Presbyterian
Hospital Matthews, a 102-bed community hospital, as well as plenty of
shopping along Independence Boulevard.
To the northeast is University City, home to UNC Charlotte. Although it
remains unincorporated, the population of this area of northeast
Mecklenburg County doubled during the 1990s to almost 100,000 people. A
new outer loop and abundant land made the area ripe for expansion. There
are major new corporate players in the area, including TIAA-CREF’s
southern service center.
Points north of Charlotte, including the towns of Huntersville,
Cornelius and Davidson — all served by I-77 — have experienced
tremendous growth over the past decade.
Twenty years ago, the area still referred to as Lake Norman was
primarily a weekend retreat. Today, more than 60,000 people call the
Northwest Mecklenburg County is growing too, although it remains one of
only a few areas with unspoiled beauty. It is the site of Charlotte’s
drinking water reservoir, Mountain Island Lake.
Charlotte’s west side, which boasts Charlotte-Douglas International
Airport, acts as a gateway to the city and is benefiting from public and
private investment. A new branch of Central Piedmont Community College
opened here, as has a $38 million Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school. A
YMCA is planned.
To the southwest of the wheel is Pineville, Mecklenburg’s smallest
town but in many ways a study in contrasts. The town retains its antique
shops but is home to a major shopping mall. Mercy Hospital South serves
the population here.
Much More Than Banking
Though at first glance Charlotte appears to be a banking capital — and
it is — the county’s overall strength resides in its balanced
Its banks are among the nation’s largest, but Charlotte is home to
seven Fortune 500 headquarters, tying the city for fifth in a recent
national ranking. The list includes Bank of America, Wachovia Corp.,
Duke Energy, Sonic Automotive, SPX, Nucor and Goodrich Corp. Outside of
Charlotte but in Mecklenburg County, homegrown retailer Family Dollar
has its headquarters in Matthews. Nearly 300 of Fortune’s top 500
companies have one or more facilities within Mecklenburg County. In
addition, Belk Inc. and Compass Group North America each have annual
sales in excess of $2.2 billion and are located within the county.
The community is also compatible with small and medium-sized companies.
Entrepreneur magazine has cited Charlotte as one of the nation’s best
large cities for entrepreneurs to start and run a small business.
“The great thing about Charlotte we’ve seen over the last 10 years
is that Charlotte has been very steady in its growth,” says Robert
Stolz, CEO of the U.S. wood division of The Wurth Company and a member
of NCCBI’s executive committee. The Wurth Company owns Charlotte
Hardwood Center and 54 other locations around the country,. “It’s a
chamber of commerce kind of town,” Stolz says. “If you live in
Charlotte you are involved in business of some form.”
To say that growth has come to Charlotte in the past 10 years is an
understatement. Consider these numbers: In the last decade, economic
development in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County totaled $9.1 billion in
announced new businesses, according to the Charlotte Chamber. The
investment from 8,888 firms created 79,646 jobs.
Through the second quarter of the year Mecklenburg County welcomed 520
new and expanded businesses that created 5,396 new jobs and more than
$517 million in investment, says the chamber’s Carroll Gray.
Over the past 15 years, Charlotte has grown by 2.5 to 3 percent a year.
“Charlotte is in balance,” says Gray. “There’s a lot of vitality
here. Young people are coming in droves.”
Charlotte is best known for its banking juggernaut. Bank of America,
which grew from NCNB, and Wachovia Corp, which expanded in Forsyth
County before moving its headquarters to Charlotte in 2001, have matured
the city into the second largest financial center in the country, behind
New York. More than 75,646 people are employed in finance and insurance
jobs in the county.
Wachovia is the county’s largest employer, with 17,000 workers, while
Bank of America employees 12,770. The other largest employers are
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Carolinas HealthCare System, Duke Energy,
and US Airways. (See chart, page 47.)
Charlotte’s other mega-industry is distribution, and it rivals banking
in terms of jobs and national status.
The city’s wholesale sales volume places Charlotte sixth on the list
of U.S. markets. Since 1990, Charlotte has added or expanded 192
distribution facilities. It is home to large distribution facilities for
companies such as Family Dollar, Black & Decker, Winn-Dixie, General
Motors, Lucent Technologies and TJ Maxx.
The industry fills orders and ships goods nationally, employing some
27,000 people in the region. That’s 6.5 percent of the local economy,
twice as large as the national average for cities.
Rail shipping sees 270 trains a week coming through Charlotte on Norfolk
Southern and CSX’s tracks. Norfolk Southern Railway is developing a
new intermodal complex at Charlotte-Douglas Airport, which will bring
all four major modes of transportation together on one site.
Mecklenburg County is also a major manufacturing center with more than
1,200 manufacturing firms, the most of any county in the state.
Charlotte ranks second only to Dallas, Texas, in the number of new
factories opened during the 1990s. Charlotte manufacturers work in such
fields as non-electrical and electrical machinery, metalworking and
chemicals. Others include Lance snack crackers, Continental General Tire
and new industries such as Solectron.
Unlike in many counties where a county-funded nonprofit recruits
industry, in Charlotte it’s a team effort by the Charlotte Chamber,
the Charlotte Regional Partnership and elected officials. “I consider
the largest portion of my job is recruitment,” says Mayor McCrory.
“I have a monthly breakfast meeting with people in business and it
brings me back to reality about what businesses are looking for.”
Investing in Workforce Skills
With so many new jobs, Charlotte depends on a highly qualified and
skilled workforce. Producing those learners and eventual workers begins
with the public school system.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools serves more than 112,000 students and is
the largest system in North Carolina and the 23rd largest in the nation.
The system’s numbers alone are impressive, with 148 schools (51 of
them magnet schools) and almost 15,000 employees. CMS serves 60,000
lunches a day and manages a fleet of 1,200 buses traveling 132,576 miles
The system continues to grow and the community has supported that growth
with continued building. The community passed a $275.5 million bond in
2000 and another $224 million bond in 2002 to renovate older facilities
and build four new schools. The system is currently undergoing the
largest building program in its history.
The student population is diverse, with more than 80 native languages
spoken in the schools, and while the size and diversity can bring
challenges as well as opportunities to teaching, student achievement
tests are consistently above the national average.
The top 10 percent of CMS graduates had an average SAT score of 1228 and
they earned $29.8 million in academic scholarships.
Under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. James Pughsley, the system
has posted its highest gains ever in the state’s ABCs program, with 44
schools earning either the prestigious School of Excellence or School of
In 2003, Newsweek magazine ranked four CMS high schools in its “Best
in the U.S.” list, with Myers Park High School ranking seventh in the
“CMS has made tremendous strides, and a lot of that can be credited to
the wisdom of our board of education and the leadership of Dr. Pughsley,”
says Bank of America’s Denton. “Not having a strong education system
is a thing that can derail a city long-term, but I think we are headed
in the right direction.”
And few things in Charlotte that are successful are accomplished without
the help of business. Wachovia has developed a WachoviaVolunteers
chapter in Charlotte that has made considerable contributions to
children’s literacy. Wachovia employees also serve as lunch buddies
After high school graduation, students in Mecklenburg County have the
opportunity to stay at home and attend one of the leading two-year
institutions in the country.
Central Piedmont Community College serves some 70,000 students per year
on six campuses and a virtual campus as well as upwards of 100
convenient sites such as churches, retirement homes and high schools at
CPCC is the community’s link to job training, and in 2002 CPCC was
named National Community College of the Year by the National Alliance of
Business, which looked at the college’s responsiveness to the need for
a supply chain of workers. The same year, CPCC was selected by the U.S.
Government Accounting Office as one of the top two workforce development
colleges in the nation.
“I don’t think there’s any question that we have the very best
community college in the entire system here in Charlotte and one of the
best in the country,” says state Rep. Ed McMahan, who has represented
Mecklenburg County in the North Carolina General Assembly for five terms
and is a member of the NCCBI board.
“I’d also say that UNC Charlotte has shown tremendous improvement
under the leadership of Chancellor Jim Woodward,” adds McMahan, who is
chair of Little Diversified Architectural Consulting in Charlotte. “I
think UNCC is going to continue to be a major force in the economic
development of the region.”
UNC Charlotte is the fourth largest in the state’s 16-campus system
and has gained national prominence in recent years not only for its
men’s basketball team but also for research in the areas of
optoelectronics, bioinformatics and precision metrology.
The university’s work in bioinformatics, which is analysis of genetic
data, will benefit from a $35 million appropriation from the General
Assembly this summer for a new bioinformatics center. It will be located
on UNCC’s 100-acre research campus, which already includes three
buildings under construction.
Charlotte Research Institute partners with industry to transfer
technology developed at the university to the marketplace. Formed in
2000, the institute is pushing the university toward its goal of
becoming a full research university, much like UNC Chapel Hill and N.C.
State, as deemed by The Carnegie Foundation.
“Today, UNC Charlotte is gaining stature for its research prowess in
fields whose names we could not pronounce in 1986 when I came to
Charlotte,” says Ruth Shaw, president of Duke Power and chair of the
Charlotte Research Institute. “Jim Woodward’s vision to develop
research capabilities and doctoral programs at UNC Charlotte has been
essential to the progress of this region and it is a critical foundation
for the future.”
The school has focused in recent years on increasing the number of
masters and Ph.D. programs it offers and the graduates it turns out each
year. In just the past year the Charlotte Research Institute has
increased its research funding by 40 percent, garnering more than $10
million from public and private sources.
UNCC’s direction will soon be set by a new leader as the university
searches for a new chancellor to replace Woodward, who retires from his
position next June.
Other private education opportunities abound for those living in
Charlotte. Queens University is in the scenic heart of the Myers Park
neighborhood, surrounded by some of the city’s most stately mansions.
The school was founded in 1857 as a girls’ college but became coed in
1987. Among Queens’ noted programs are its masters in business
administration in the university’s McColl School of Business, named
for banker Hugh McColl, a school trustee.
Also near uptown is Johnson C. Smith University, which was again named
by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the top 50 colleges for African
Americans. The historically black college was founded in 1867 as Biddle
Memorial Institute. Today it enrolls almost 1,500 students.
Davidson College is a small, selective college of about 1,700 students
north of Charlotte in the town of Davidson. U.S. News & World Report consistently lists Davidson as among the
nation’s top 10 liberal arts colleges. Wake Forest University operates a satellite campus here for its popular
MBA program, and about 150 students are enrolled in evening and weekend
When Charlotteans need medical care, they are well served by two large
regional healthcare systems — Carolinas Healthcare System and Novant,
which have multiple locations across the county.
Carolinas Healthcare System operates the county’s largest public
hospital, Carolinas Medical Center, which is undergoing its largest
construction project in 10 years.
The hospital’s current $70 million expansion will include construction
of four new floors atop the existing surgery tower and expansion of the
hospital’s intensive care units for neurosurgery, trauma and surgery.
Each floor will have new family lounges and waiting rooms.
At the same time, CMC is planning an $85 million children’s hospital.
Scheduled to open in 2007, the hospital will be named the Levine
Children’s Hospital in honor of Sandra and Leon Levine, who have
committed a $10 million lead gift to jumpstart the funding drive for the
building. Leon Levine is chair emeritus of Family Dollar Stores Inc, a
Matthews-based discount retail chain with more than 5,000 stores in 43
states. The goal is to raise $60 million.
The children’s hospital will have 230 beds and serve the health needs
of 500,000 children in the 28 counties surrounding the area as well as
the 95,000 children expected to move to the area within the next 10
CMC has been recognized as Charlotte’s most preferred hospital by
National Research Corp. It’s the seventh consecutive year the 861-bed
teaching hospital has earned the designation.
Mecklenburg residents’ other top choice for healthcare is Novant’s
Presbyterian Hospital, a private, nonprofit regional medical center
located just a mile from CMC. Presbyterian is one of the largest
healthcare institutions in the Carolinas with 593 beds and employs
almost 7,400 people, serving 250,000 patients a year.
In September, Presbyterian Hospital opened its $58.6 million women’s
center, which boasts 35 post-partum rooms, 16 redesigned labor and
delivery rooms and 38 neonatal intensive care beds.
“We’ve got two fine institutions that have attracted outstanding
physicians as well as a good specialty base,” says Denton.
Big-Time Sports, High-Brow Art
Aside from building businesses and a strong community, Charlotteans like
to play. And there are more options than ever for a weekday or weekend
This month, pro basketball officially returns to Charlotte. After the
long goodbye to the Charlotte Hornets, who moved to New Orleans when the
ownership and the city were unable to come to terms on a new basketball
arena, the NBA expansion Charlotte Bobcats will take the court.
This first season the Bobcats will play at the 15-year-old Charlotte
Coliseum — the arena that was the first team’s stumbling block —
but construction is under way in uptown on a $264 million arena.
Charlotte football fans are still celebrating the 2003 season of the NFC
Champion Carolina Panthers and the team’s first trip to the Super
Bowl. The Panthers’ home is in Bank of America Stadium, which opened
in the summer of 1996. The stadium has 73,298 seats and 158 luxury
A relative newcomer to Charlotte’s sports scene is the Wachovia
Championship, which offers one of the largest purses on the PGA Tour and
always attracts a top-notch field. The tournament completed its second
year this past May at Quail Hollow Club, attracting such stars as Tiger
Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III.
Those who are looking for more contemplative amusements might consider
uptown’s arts district where there are museums to interest all ages.
Discovery Place is the region’s premier science museum and always a
favorite with kids who visit over and over. Coming in 2005 is ImaginON,
the Joe and Joan Martin Center, which is a joint facility to be shared
by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and the Public Library of
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Voters overwhelmingly approved $27
million in bonds for the building in 1999 and another $12 million was
raised in a private campaign to fund space for popular children’s
ImaginOn is an integral part of Charlotte’s arts district, which also
includes the Levine Museum of the New South, the Afro-American Cultural
Center, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, McColl Center for Visual
Arts, Mint Museum of Craft + Design as well as countless private art
Charlotte’s arts scene attracts nearly 2.9 million people annually and
is generously supported by the private and corporate citizens. While
Charlotte leads the nation in private per capita funding for the arts,
needs remain. Thus the arts community has submitted a comprehensive Arts
& Cultural Facilities Master Plan to the city council and a task
force is looking at ways to fund the plan.
“The master plan is a big idea – the sort of idea that has helped
this city move forward over many decades,” says Shaw of Duke Power.
“This package, combined with the other exciting developments occurring
downtown, will truly transform our center city, a magnet for the
If it is fully implemented, the city’s long admired facilities, such
as Discovery Place and the Afro-American Cultural Center, will be
renovated and expanded, and a new museum, the Bechtler Art Museum, would
So far Bank of America and Wachovia each have pledged $8 million to the
fund, but as yet public dollars have not been committed. “Government
hasn’t turned its back though,” says Graham Denton of Bank of
America. “I sense some optimism about getting it done.”
Like most things in Charlotte, if it’s a worthwhile project and the
business community backs it, more often than not the job will get done.
to Go, What to See in Charlotte
View and download a map
of downtown Charlotte showing
locations of many attractions mentioned in this article
Carolina has beautiful beaches and majestic mountains. The Charlotte
area has neither of those natural features, yet it is the No. 1 travel
destination in the state.
Most of the $2.6 billion in annual tourism revenue that comes to
Charlotte is due to business travel. But over the past decade the
region’s recreational opportunities have exploded.
“A few of the sports entertainment options — the Carolina Panthers,
the Wachovia Championship golf tournament, the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats
and NASCAR — offer one a glimpse into the fun and energy brewing in
the city,” says Paul Grube, Charlotte executive for Wachovia.
If you haven’t traveled this way in some time, you might consider a
holiday shopping trip, and be sure to fit in time for a few more
In uptown there’s the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, the sister of
Charlotte’s longtime Mint Museum on Randolph Road. The newer craft
museum features a permanent collection that documents contemporary
studio craft, showcasing ceramics, fiber, glass, metal and wood.
The newly renovated and expanded Levine Museum of the New South houses
the nation’s most comprehensive interpretation of post-Civil War
southern history. The core exhibit, “Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers,”
traces the region from 1865 agriculture to today’s banking empire.
If the kids are in tow, don’t miss Discovery Place. Each year, more
than 500,000 people visit Discovery Place, Charlotte’s science and
technology museum, with attractions such as the Omnimax Theater, a
three-story rain forest, aquarium and other hands-on learning exhibits
for kids and adults.
The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center showcases the best in opera,
symphony, chorus, dance and theater. It is also home to many of the
community’s arts organizations. As a testament to the private
community’s support of the arts, the $55 million center was built with
more than half the money coming from private sources.
In the fall, Sundays belong to the NFL Carolina Panthers, who thrilled
the city with their first trip to the Super Bowl this past January. Even
if they aren’t playing, Bank of America Stadium, with its 73,258 seats
in the shadows of the city’s gleaming banking towers, is a sight to
behold. So, too, is Paramount’s Carowinds, the state’s largest theme
park that’s just south down I-77 on the South Carolina state line.
And while you’re here, don’t forget shopping. You didn’t see it on
reality TV, but SouthPark mall has undergone something of an extreme
makeover, mall edition.
The mall is in the midst of a $100 million expansion and remodelling
that has brought some notable high-end retailers into the state,
including Luis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Burberry, Helzberg Diamonds and
Tiffany’s. There’s also lots of new shopping for more reasonable
purchases, including Pottery Barn Kids, Ann Taylor Loft and Nordstrom.
And Belk debuted improvements to its flagship store in 2002.
With so much to do, it is no wonder Charlotte is attracting the young
and the young at heart. — Laura
on Mass Transit to Ease Congestion
trains and automobiles weigh heavily on the minds of Mecklenburg
County’s leaders. This urban area is dealing with crowded highways
with not enough state money available for expansions; the second round
of bankruptcy court for US Airways, which operates its largest hub here;
and a deadline of 2006 to open the first stretch of North Carolina’s
first urban light rail system.
In 1998, Mecklenburg residents approved a half-cent transit sales tax to
fund the local portion of a new mass transit system. The overall plan is
expected to cost $2.9 billion, making it North Carolina’s most
expensive public works project ever. Half of the money will come from
the federal government, 25 percent from the state and the other 25
percent from the local tax.
The overall transit plan, which will take more than 20 years to realize,
includes commuter rail lines along the heaviest traveled freeways as
well as a new road network dedicated solely to buses. A 9.6-mile light
rail line with 15 stations along the route from uptown to near Pineville
opens in 2006.
“We’ll never relieve the congestion with all of the pavement in the
world. My goal is to provide as much choice for the commuter as
possible,” says Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.
Charlotte drivers endure one of the longest average commute times in the
country. Local leaders are working to ensure that state highway money is
available to expand some of the state’s busiest roads. State Rep. Ed
McMahan (R-Mecklenburg) and others are working to amend the wording of
the state’s Highway Trust Fund Act, which allows for paving new roads
but not widening existing roads.
This past session the General Assembly was able to appropriate money to
widen the southern portion of Charlotte’s outer loop from Matthews to
Pineville, which was backed up the day it opened. “The way the law is
written, we’re not providing money to urban growth areas,” says
There is a study commission currently looking into urban congestion
issues. Representing NCCBI on the commission are Steve Zelnak, CEO of
Martin Marietta Materials and chairman emeritus of NCCBI, and Mark
Cramer, Charlotte attorney.
At the same time, Mecklenburg County is bracing for a sharp blow if US
Airways dissolves. There are 5,700 US Airways employees in Mecklenburg
County. And the airport’s 523 daily flights help make the city
attractive to businesses that rely on air travel for employees.
“I think people have overlooked the importance of US Airways to
Charlotte,” says Robert Stolz, CEO of the U.S. Wood Division of The
Wurth Company, which has 55 locations in the United States. “If they
go away it will have a significant impact on the business community and
the quality of life of people like me.” -- Laura Williams-Tracy
Facts About CLT
Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) is the nation’s 13th
busiest airport in terms of operations, with 524 daily departures. The
airport is served by eight domestic carriers, two foreign flag carriers
and seven regional airlines. Non-stop service is available to 120
destinations, including 24 foreign cities. There are four runways, five
major concourses covering 1.7 million square feet and a total of 85
The airport served 23.1 million passengers in 2003, 17th most in the
nation. More than 154,000 tons of cargo move through the airport each
year. There are 15,000 parking spaces with another 3,000 in a new
parking deck scheduled to open next summer/
Nearly 16,000 people work at the airport, including 5,700 employed by