Work Life

Then and now: These aerial shots show just how dramatically Charlotte has changed since 1978

Uptown in 1978
Uptown in 1978

Forty years ago, Charlotte was a city on the cusp of a boom.

The year 1978 was key for the city.

Voters passed “liquor by the drink,” allowing bars and restaurants to serve hard alcohol and cocktails. IBM was building its campus near UNC Charlotte, with plans to relocate 1,000 workers and their families from upstate New York. And Piedmont Airlines was starting to grow Charlotte’s airport into an important hub for travelers.

But the city still had a long way to go.

The population was barely over 300,000, less than half of its present level. Light rail and the major skyline downtown (later to become uptown) were decades away. Huge stretches of undeveloped farmland and woods stretched around the city in places that would one day become Ballantyne, the neighborhoods of SouthPark and subdivisions around Lake Norman.

A new tool from Mecklenburg County allows users to toggle between satellite imagery from 1978 and 2018 (as well as other years in between). You can check it out at http://timemachine.mcmap.org/.

The tool gives you a sense of how the city’s breakneck growth has altered the landscape and the sheer pace at which new developments have gobbled up tracts of land. Here’s a look at key locations around Charlotte and how they’ve changed in the past 40 years:

Uptown in 1978
Uptown in 1978

Uptown in 2018
Uptown in 2018

Ballantyne in 1978
Ballantyne in 1978

Ballantyne in 2018
Ballantyne in 2018

UNCC in 1978
UNCC in 1978

UNCC in 2018
UNCC in 2018

Interstate 85 in University City in 1978
Interstate 85 in University City in 1978

Interstate 85 near University City in 2018
Interstate 85 near University City in 2018

Interstate 77 near Lake Norman in 1978
Interstate 77 near Lake Norman in 1978

Interstate 77 near Lake Norman in 2018
Interstate 77 near Lake Norman in 2018

Providence Road near what’s now Interstate 485 in 1978

Providence Road near Interstate 485 in 2018
Providence Road near Interstate 485 in 2018

Eastland Mall in 1978
Eastland Mall in 1978

Eastland Mall in 2018
Eastland Mall in 2018

SouthPark in 1978
SouthPark in 1978

SouthPark in 2018
SouthPark in 2018

The Ashcraft dairy farm on Marsh Road in 1981, with the Charlotte skyline in the background. The farm is now dense housing. Observer archives
The Ashcraft dairy farm on Marsh Road in 1981, with the Charlotte skyline in the background. The farm is now dense housing. Observer archives

This story first ran at CharlotteObserver.com.

  Comments