Neighboring towns Matthews (with about 30,000 people) and Mint Hill (population about 25,000) share more than a common boundary.
Both towns are steeped in history, offer numerous sports and outdoor opportunities and boast growing cultural and social scenes in their downtowns.
Here are eight things to know about living in these towns:
1. Getting around. Mint Hill, a 25-square-mile town that stretches across Mecklenburg and Union counties, has five Interstate 485 exits within town limits. Matthews, which is 17 square miles and is located in Mecklenburg, has three exits.
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While the interstate eases travel, main roads still get very congested - particularly since both towns are conduits for Union County traffic. The N.C. Department of Transportation has several road improvement projects scheduled for both towns over the next few years.
2. Town leadership. Both towns utilize a manager/council form of government. Voters elect new town boards (a mayor and four commissioners in Mint Hill, a mayor and six commissioners in Matthews) every two years. While elected boards make the big decisions, they look to the town managers to handle day-to-day operations. Residents can get in on the action by attending board meetings and applying for a seat on boards and committees. In Mint Hill, that’s the board of adjustment, planning board, and park and recreation committee. Matthews has these groups, too, as well as committees for transportation, appearance and trees, environment, veterans affairs and more.
3. Development. Most of the land in Matthews has already been developed, with many areas now undergoing infill or redevelopment. The town boasts a variety of housing styles, from single-family homes to townhomes and apartments. The town actively promotes mixed-use residential development in downtown. Retirement communities include Plantation Estates, which is expanding, and Windsor Run, a new community slated to open in 2017.
Mint Hill still has large tracts of undeveloped land. Residential options are predominantly single-family homes on one acre or larger lots, although there are a few newer developments with smaller lot sizes, as well as apartments, townhomes and patio homes.
4. Festivals. Matthews sponsors a number of events each year. The two most noteworthy are Beachfest Matthews, which is held the second weekend in May and features arts, crafts, beach bands and more; and Matthews Alive, a four-day festival held Labor Day weekend with a parade, arts, crafts, rides, games and live entertainment.
There’s also Hometown Holidays, held the first weekend in December, with kids activities, carriage rides and tree lighting on the town green.
Mint Hill hosts Mint Hill Madness on Memorial Day weekend with arts, crafts, rides, games, and live entertainment, and a tree lighting at town hall each December.
5. Celebrate history. Historic sites scattered around Matthews include the turn-of-the-century Reid House and the 1880 Massey-Clark House, home to the Matthews Heritage Museum. The Matthews Historical Foundation (www.matthewshistoricalfoundation.org) is responsible for management and upkeep of those facilities, plans monthly programs and advises the town on other historical properties that should be preserved.
Mint Hill is home to Philadelphia Presbyterian Church, founded in 1770, one of the oldest churches in Mecklenburg County. The Mint Hill Historical Society operates the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village, a two-acre site in downtown featuring a turn-of-the-century doctor’s office, one- room schoolhouse, general store, assay office and more.
6. Recreation and sports. Recreation is a high priority in both towns. Matthews boasts nine town parks, a greenway and a county sportsplex that holds a number of soccer and other field sport games and tournaments. Mountain bike trails are under development in the town’s newest park just off N.C. 51.
Mint Hill has two town parks with a new athletic complex in the planning stages and a future county nature center. MARA (Matthews Athletic and Recreation Association) and the Mint Hill Athletic Association field a number of youth teams in a variety of sports each season. Church and private leagues also play on town fields.
7. Gathering places. Matthews residents look forward to First Thursdays each month, when downtown merchants offer food, drink and other specials after business hours. Sidewalks feature pop-up markets, social events and entertainment. Food Truck Fridays take place weekly from March to October, where folks gather in Stumptown Park to enjoy food and entertainment. The Matthews Farmers Market operates every Saturday on Trade Street.
Mint Hill residents gather for movies on the lawn in front of town hall each Friday in May, and for June Tunes concerts each Saturday in June. From May to October, the Mint Hill Farmers Market is open Saturday mornings at the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village.
8. Arts. The Matthews Community Center, a restored schoolhouse, is home to visual and performing arts classes, as well as the Matthews Playhouse, a community based non-profit theater (www.matthewsplayhouse.com). The adjacent Matthews Art Center features studio space and additional art classes in multiple mediums.
Mint Hill Arts (www.minthillarts.org), a local nonprofit, features a variety of visual arts classes and shows. Nonprofit Pottery 51 offers classes in clay and studio space for local potters.
Freelance writer Melinda Johnston has covered Mint Hill for almost 20 years, and Matthews for about a decade.