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Uptown

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    Libretto’s Pizzeria in EpiCentre (210 E. Trade St.) : Nothing fancy, just the best New York-style pie you’ll find in the Carolinas. Tasty, chewy crust, a great sauce, and not one of those places that overwhelms other ingredients with a flood of cheese. They offer a wide selection of by-the-slice pies. Try the New Yorker, a mix of veggies and meats.

    American Legion Memorial Stadium (310 N. Kings Drive) : Still a neat old haunt for the city’s top high school football games, this sports venue has been renovated and is now home to a new summer-time happening: Charlotte Hounds professional lacrosse. Nice that we fix some things with historical significance, rather than just tear it all down.

    NASCAR Hall of Fame (400 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.) : This is very much a living museum; not a bunch of dust-covered memorabilia, but an opportunity to interact with the most high-tech of sports. You see vividly how stock-car racing evolved from driving on the sand in Daytona to the computer-heavy machines that show up at superspeedways.



My typical Saturday-morning routine, April through October:

A walk down Morehead Street to the Kings Drive farmer’s market. If I don’t pick up anything too perishable, I’ll take the long way home, cutting down to Freedom Park, up East Boulevard and back through South End to my apartment complex.

I’m a walker. It’s good for my body and better for my head. That’s why I’ve become comfortable living “Uptown” or “Center City” – or whatever term you use to describe the sector roughly defined by I-277.

I’ve lived here about five years and my stay might be coming to an end, as I seek to buy a townhome. The prices are better well south of the skyscrapers. But I’ll miss having the choice to walk to work, the grocery store, the pharmacy and about 150 restaurants.

I’m not your typical uptown resident in that I’m past my 20s and 30s. There are pluses living around younger people, but it gets tiresome that many of them still act like they live in frat houses, dropping cigarette butts and beer cans wherever.

The plus is the option to grab something to eat at 10 p.m., even midnight, without getting out your car keys. Or to avoid the traffic snarl inherent to living down Providence Road or up I-77. No matter how much politicians talk about additional light rail, I’d rather take the sure thing of walking down College Street to reach Time Warner Cable Arena or the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

I’ve lived in Charlotte long enough to remember when uptown was deserted by 7 p.m. It’s nothing like that now. In my job, covering the Charlotte Bobcats for the Observer, I tend to leave the arena on game nights sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight. Even on weeknights, I find it remarkable how much activity is still going on at the EpiCentre and all around the entertainment district.

Also, it’s not just a canyon of skyscrapers. The greenway along Kings Drive is a great place to bike, run or stroll. Trader Joe’s is along that greenway, so it’s kind of yuppie nirvana.

Bicycles were perceived as a nuisance uptown a few years ago. It’s still not an ideal situation, but the commuters seem to be coming around to the idea that a BMW must share the road with a touring bike. There are enough side streets in Dilworth and Eastover that you can safely pedal around until you’re ready for the “Booty Loop” in Myers Park.

As people started moving back to Center City (there are more than 30,000 housing units within a 3-mile ring of the bank towers), commerce followed. I can walk to two Harris Teeters and a variety of pharmacies. That Lowe’s on South Boulevard has all the hammers, wrenches and ladders the handy among us require.

One of the things I missed, moving uptown, was being close to a movie theater. Seemed like they all circled town and were just far enough away that you couldn’t decide on 15 minutes’ notice to see a film. That was solved with the first-run theater – Studio Movie Grill – at the EpiCentre.

Living uptown is diverse and convenient. You pay for it in bloated rent, gasoline and restaurant charges, so I probably won’t be an uptowner for long.

But I’ll sure miss all those choices.

Rick covers the NBA for the Observer.
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