When my parents visited recently, we spent the entire day touring Charlotte – without getting in the car.
We ate brunch at Mert’s Heart & Soul, visited museums at the Levine Center for the Arts, walked through Romare Bearden Park and had lunch at the 7th Street Public Market. We rested for a few hours, then met up for dinner.
That’s the advantage of living uptown: You have plenty to do without getting in your car.
The center city has changed dramatically since my first visit in the late 1990s. Back then, uptown seemed like just one big bank lobby – connected by the Overstreet Mall. Today, more than 100,000 people work uptown, according to Charlotte Center City Partners. The banks still dominate, but there’s a lot more to do.
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I can walk to Harris Teeter, the theater, sporting events and festivals. When there’s an event like Coca-Cola Speed Street, I don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot. I just walk a few blocks.
The EpiCentre, which opened in 2008, brought a movie theater, bowling alley and more nightspots and restaurants. Even more important, these businesses are open seven days a week. That center continues to evolve. A tower with two Marriott brand hotels is planned.
Uptown is home to about 215 restaurants, according to a Center City Partners report.
The Lynx Blue Line allows uptown residents and visitors to get to South End without relying on a car – and the future streetcar, scheduled to open next year, will provide easier access to Elizabeth.
One of my favorite features about the center city isn’t even in uptown proper. The Little Sugar Creek Greenway, just south of uptown, is a great spot for a run or a bike ride.
Still, uptown living isn’t for everyone. You don’t get nearly as much space for your money, and although it is a great walking city, it also would be tough to get by without a car.
Retail is lacking compared with more suburban areas; uptown has 175 retailers, according to Center City Partners, but if you want the traditional mall shops, you’ll need to drive about 15 minutes to find them.
Many of my friends don’t like going out in uptown, so I routinely find myself driving to hang out with them in Plaza Midwood, NoDa, Dilworth or Elizabeth.
I also end up driving to work daily. My job keeps my in the office until after 11 p.m., and there’s not enough life on my end of uptown for me to feel comfortable walking most weekdays.
But one of the things I’ve enjoyed about living uptown is watching it continue to evolve.
Since I moved to uptown 10 years ago, the center city has become even livelier, with new skyscrapers, condos and apartment buildings and the new cultural campus, with three museums and the Knight Theater.
Most recently, BB&T Ballpark and Bearden Park have added to the uptown buzz.
New apartment high-rises, hotels and offices planned in and around uptown mean that evolution will continue.