Even though I’ve lived in University City for two decades this fall, I’m still discovering new things around the corner – literally – in this slice of northeast Charlotte.
A neighborhood run now includes newly paved streets that are part of the upcoming Graham Street extension project. Scenery during the drive down the North Tryon corridor changes all the time, thanks to work on Charlotte’s Blue Line light rail extension.
All the changes will bring new habits to embrace, but I’ll still keep my long-time likes, too. Here are some of my favorites:
Learning: UNC Charlotte is one of the fastest-growing institutions in the state system, with offerings that extend beyond the university’s main student base. I’ve taken continuing education courses, and have enjoyed other aspects of the campus, too – from walking through the botanical gardens to biking onto campus paths leading to the school’s football stadium.
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Also, there’s Central Piedmont Community College’s beautiful Cato Campus, which is CPCC’s fastest-growing campus. It’s home to a horticulture technology program and Cato Middle College High School, where juniors and seniors can take tuition-free college courses while finishing high school.
And don’t overlook the free stuff and conveniences at the University City Regional branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library: Free Wi-Fi, storytime for kids, access to free community newsletters and one of the early-voting sites during election season.
Strolling: You can people-watch while walking around the lake at Shoppes at University Place, or enjoy nature along the Mallard Creek and Clark’s Creek greenways.
I’m thrilled about an upcoming option: Construction is underway on a bridge over Interstate 85 connecting IBM Drive to Ikea Boulevard, and the stretch is slated to include pedestrian and bicycle access, according to University City Partners, a nonprofit that promotes economic development and community building in the area.
Relaxing: Need a breather after all that walking? Head to Dilworth Coffee, a locally-founded brand with several area cafes, including one in UCity’s Highland Creek community. Wi-Fi, art for sale on the walls and killer treats, including New York cheesecake by local baking business Sweet It Is! (Which I may have had for breakfast on occasion.)
There’s also Cafeccino, thanks to local math instructor Phillip Tran, who bought the former Caribou Coffee location in 2013 and hired his students to work in the space. Menu also features food and craft beer.
OK, the University City YMCA may not be the first place you think of as a sit-down spot. But socializing in the lobby is encouraged before and after (or perhaps in lieu of?) workouts, with cozy chairs, high stools and tables, and coffee during weekday mornings.
Dining and sipping: For casual eating and drinking, pretty much all of the major chain places are here, but if you’re looking for something different there’s plenty to check out. A few: Breakfast-brunch place Famous Toastery (a franchise launched in Huntersville in 2005, now with multiple locations); family-run House of Leng Chinese restaurant (with two UCity locations); treats-place Nona’s Sweets Bakery Cafe; Persis Biryani Indian Grill, a franchise based in New Jersey; and The Wine Vault, which also hosts live music.
Fun gatherings and festivals: A mix of traditional and newer events to choose from, including the Mallard Creek Barbecue, an annual event mixing politics and ‘cue that’s always on the fourth Thursday of October and entering its 87th year this fall; springtime’s University City Duathlon, a running and cycling event held in University Research Park since 2011; University City Taste, a celebration of area eateries and featuring live entertainment, also in the fall and entering its sixth year; and a new Prosperity Village Food Truck Saturday gathering off the Interstate 485 interchange.
Observer staffer Celeste Smith moved to the University City area in 1996.