Northeast Charlotte long has been considered a find by those of us who live here.
I came here in the mid 1990s. That was around the time University City – along with Mecklenburg’s northern towns, Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville – boomed with newcomers. University Research Park helped fuel the area’s reputation as a Charlotte jobs center, like SouthPark and Ballantyne.
Even now, University City is still known for its diversity, affordable homes and convenience. It’s just a short commute into uptown Charlotte by bus or car.
And our slice of Mecklenburg County is capturing big headlines again, for good reasons. Plans made years back to boost the area’s offerings, from public transit to retail, are now coming together.
Here are some of the most-talked-about developments:
In the loop: North Mecklenburg drivers have waited a long time for their piece of Charlotte’s loop, Interstate 485. Construction began with the southern stretch in 1988. Now, work is underway on the final 5.7-mile stretch in the northeast. (Think of it as the 12 o’clock-to 1 o’clock part.) Upon completion – expected in December 2014 – the 67-mile loop will link I-77 and I-85.
Football’s coming: The UNC Charlotte 49ers football team launched its inaugural season on Aug. 31, taking the field at Jerry Richardson Stadium. It was a dream realized for many area supporters, including the Charlotte Football Initiative, the alumni group that began pushing in 2006 to bring the sport to the school.
Shopping: University City is the only place in the region that has been building significant new retail, according to University City Partners, which supports business growth in the area.
Newest on the scene is Belgate, a 900,000-square-foot shopping center on IKEA Boulevard off I-85, which opened in May. Stores include Marshalls, ULTA, Old Navy, Petco, Cost Plus World Market, Hobby Lobby and Shoe Carnival. Belgate includes Swedish home furnishings behemoth IKEA, and furniture retailer Furniture Row. It’s also near Walmart SuperCenter on North Tryon Street.
Light rail on the way: Construction starts this fall on the Lynx Blue Line extension, which extends the light rail system from uptown to UNC Charlotte. Light rail’s first and only section, which opened in 2007, runs from uptown to south Mecklenburg. The extension coming through University City is scheduled to be done in 2017.
Big business hub: Recent newsmakers include Swedish appliance firm Electrolux, which moved its North American headquarters to Charlotte’s University Research Park in 2010.
There’s also Innovation Park, the upstart office campus in University City, which sits on the high-tech infrastructure built there by IBM in the 1970s, when the computer giant opened a research and manufacturing plant on the site. (IBM eventually sold off most of its land, and reduced operations).
Last year, Innovation Park hosted “Passages,” a traveling exhibit that includes pieces from the world’s largest collection of biblical artifacts.
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