The westside always gets a bum rap.Many people only see west Charlotte from Wilkinson Boulevard, as they drive to the airport or make their way to Interstate 85. Yes, there is a gentleman’s club, a couple of adult bookstores and maybe a couple of old motels.But Wilkinson Boulevard has seen a great deal of revitalization in the past 10 years. The Charlotte School of Law now occupies land where a factory once stood. The Walmart near Ashley Road has become the cornerstone of redevelopment along the Wilkinson corridor; it’s surrounded by many other retailers and draws shoppers from uptown, Myers Park and Dilworth.The nearby Wilkinson Park Business Center has attracted new businesses in neat buildings to an area that was previously an eyesore. The boulevard’s medians have been improved with trees and crape myrtles planted all along the corridor.When my wife and I moved to Charlotte 15 years ago, folks warned us not to live on the west side of town. They said it was full of crime, noise and industry. But when we took a closer look; we fell in love with a neighborhood of brick ranch houses near Interstate 85 and the airport.Most of the houses look much like they did when they were built in the 1950s. We found spacious yards full of big oak trees and children fishing in a neighborhood pond. We found a diverse group of friendly neighbors. Just seven miles from uptown, and it still feels like a world away.There is noise from the interstate, but I can be on the highway in two minutes. The southwestern stretch of Interstate 485 opened in 2005 followed by the northwest leg in 2008. Many feared congestion and more development would come to our side of town, but traffic has actually eased on secondary roads. There is noise from the airplanes, but you get used to it. I rarely notice the roar of the jet engines. In fact, I enjoy watching them from my yard as they take off and land. If I need to travel or rent a car, I am less than five minutes away. Convenience wins.The westside also is home to three of Charlotte’s top tourist attractions: the U.S. National Whitewater Center, the Billy Graham Library and the Carolinas Aviation Museum. The first two didn’t even exist 10 years ago, and the Aviation Museum has a new facility.West Charlotte is what I consider “old Charlotte.” Many neighborhoods, homes, and businesses are unchanged from decades ago. There is comfort in familiarity. Things move at a slightly slower pace. And who couldn’t use that? A real estate agent once told me my house would be worth over a million dollars if it were in Myers Park. That’s probably true.But my home is west Charlotte and I love it.
Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012
Changes don’t limit convenience
‘Must’ list 1. Pack a picnic and enjoy the afternoon at Shuffletown Park (9500 Bellhaven Blvd.) near Interstate 485. The park features volleyball courts, baseball and soccer fields, a playground and a four-acre, fenced dog park. www.charmeck.org. 2. Bar B Q King (2900 Wilkinson Blvd.) is a drive-in that features some of the area’s best barbecue and chicken. The Food Network’s Guy Fieri filmed a segment here for “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in 2007. Visit for dinner and enjoy the glow of the red neon lights while sitting in your car. www.barbqking.com. 3. The U.S. National Whitewater Center (5000 Whitewater Center Parkway) is a mecca for outdoor adventure seekers. Climb, kayak, mountain-bike, run, zipline, or jump into a raft with friends to try to tame the three-quarter-mile-long rapids, which can be set on mild, medium or madcap. www.usnwc.org.