Changing Tides – Has Charlotte Hit its Peak?

By: Lindsay Snyder
Twitter: @linstigator
Photography: Alyson Willis Photography

I’ve Fallen in Love with Charlotte

I am a 33 year old Charlotte transplant coming up on 8 years living in the Queen City.  I moved here in my mid-twenties looking for a young, vibrant place to land.  I was drawn by the large population of young professionals, the clean and safe feel of the Uptown area and the beautiful weather of North Carolina.  I came in unsure, like someone showing up for a date with someone they met online.  The profile sounded good, the pictures looked attractive, but you never really know what you are going to get.  I must say that Charlotte pleasantly surprised me and within my first two years I had fallen head over heels in love. 

Charlotte Lived and Died by Banking Hours

As an Atlanta native, I first moved to the area after being recruited to play soccer at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. During my four years, I had occasionally drifted off campus and ventured “Uptown” but found myself disappointed as the city lived and died by banking hours.  It was a ghost town on weekends so most of my trips out of the University area took me to Southpark Mall to shop or to East Boulevard to dine. I finished my four years and moved elsewhere shortly after graduating. 

I look back at my memory of Charlotte during that era and nothing sticks out to me. I attended a suitcase school with no football to keep people there on weekends. Most of my high school friends and extended family were convinced that I was a Tar Heel even though I had repeatedly told them otherwise. Though I enjoyed my time in college, UNCC lacked the energy of larger state schools and therefore it was often considered a notch below. UNC Charlotte was a lot like the city of Charlotte – it lacked anything that gave it any real distinction. 

2008 – A Charlotte Revitalized

Upon moving back to Charlotte in 2008, I found a different city than I had left in 2004. Uptown had ditched its curfew and people were out in full force. There were packed bars, restaurants, and clubs not only on weekends but on weeknights as well. The LYNX blue line had opened allowing people to ride into the city from Southend. One of the LYNX stops was located at a place called Epicentre with bars, restaurants, entertainment, shopping, and music. Not long after, the NC Music Factory opened with additional new bars, restaurants, and clubs as well as a large Uptown amphitheater for concerts and shows. Charlotte had woken up from hibernation and created a night life. 

Discovering Charlotte’s Hidden Gems

Upon my entry back into Charlotte as a transplant, I was introduced to new pockets around the city that I had never known before. I was taken to the arts district of Noda for a gallery crawl and dinner at Cabo Fish Taco. I bar hopped in Plaza Midwood stopping in at Common Market, Twenty-Two, Thomas Street, and the rooftop patio at Whiskey Warehouse. I discovered Freedom Park and found myself among the masses of families, kids, dogs, young singles, high school students, and the occasional bride and groom taking engagement pictures on a sunny Saturday. I bought my first Steve Smith Panther jersey and cheered on our team at Bank of America Stadium. I went on dates at the Starbucks on East Boulevard.  I discovered Price’s Chicken Coop and played darts at Gin Mill.  I moved into a duplex in Elizabeth and walked to Team Bingo at Philosophers Stone, spent multiple St. Patty’s days on the patio of Kennedys, and learned the art of karaoke at Jacks. I was officially a Charlottean. 

I have been pleasantly surprised at the growth of Charlotte since moving here. The completed greenway officially became my favorite running path through the city. The Knights stadium moved Uptown creating the most unbelievable city skyline backdrop for an evening at the ball park. Romare Bearden Park opened, the French Quarter became a thing, we got an IKEA, the Panthers got good, a free trolley was debuted, the NASCAR Hall of Fame brought a racing presence Uptown, the Whitewater center opened, and more breweries have popped up than you could ever imagine. 

Charlotte has become the perfect combination - offering everything that a big city offers and yet still small enough that you can still run into people that you know around town. 

UNC Charlotte Followed Suite

I am proud to say that my alma mater UNC Charlotte has followed suit. My first UNCC football game was a homecoming game where I cheered the team on, amidst a sea of green and gold in a packed stadium.  After the game, I drove around campus shocked at the updates and additions that had happened since driving away with diploma in hand. In the same way that the city had taken a leap forward in my absence, so had this commuter school.

Are We Losing the Heart of Charlotte?

Unfortunately, I am starting to wonder if I might just be one of the lucky ones that got to experience Charlotte in its peak. Where I have seen the value of new developments over the past 8 years, I am beginning to feel heartbroken at many of the announced future plans. Charlotte is growing and as a transplant, believe me, I understand why. The very reasons I have fallen in love with it are the reasons that others are being drawn here daily. 

But with growth, we seem to be losing some of the very elements that make us who we are. Tearing down landmarks for bigger and better is robbing us of history. Tremont music hall has closed. Double Door is closing. Jackelope Jacks will be torn down for condos. Common Market Southend will be torn down. Atherton Mill is about to be torn down and rebuilt. The church on Central was bulldozed.  Everywhere I look there is construction, and it is not for unique new hotspots or even for shops and restaurants but instead for apartments and condos. More people are being packed in which will inevitably cause more cars trying to get around our already traffic filled areas. Yet there are not bigger roads or more grocery stores or bigger parking lots or more places for all these new people to go. 

We have gotten congested over the past 8 years and all these new apartments and condos are going to turn the congestion into claustrophobia. Our city might just be turning into a big city and that big city is choking out our small town charm. Like the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, we are outgrowing being “just right”.

Maybe I’m Naïve, But I Love This City!

My time here has grown a love in my heart for this city.  I have made it my home but I feel sad for what is being lost.  I am not sure that I want to know what kind of city Charlotte will be in 8 more years.  Maybe I am being naïve as I am sure things were torn down to create all the updates which I have grown to love. But still I fear. I know that bigger is not always better and I just hope that this city stays true to what it has been. I hope that Charlotte hasn’t hit its peak but instead is just headed into its prime. 

- Lindsay Snyder