University City

Infrastructure upgrades lag in developing neighborhood

The incomplete north end of Interstate 485 dumps you into a relatively quiet developing neighborhood in University City called Davis Lake-Eastfield.

Named for two prominent roads in the area (Eastfield Road and Davis Lake Parkway), the neighborhood is a mixture of rural country homes, newly developed subdivisions, small businesses and shopping areas.

On the side of Davis Lake-Eastfield closest to Old Statesville Road, manufacturing and other longstanding blue-collar businesses abound. The eastern side of the neighborhood along Prosperity Church Road is newer, with most of the development less than 10 years old.

In many growing areas of Charlotte, infrastructure upgrades struggle to keep pace with building construction. On southbound Old Statesville Road at Eastfield Road, instead of left-hand traffic signals and a turn lane, signs instruct drivers not to make left turns onto Eastfield between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Many of the neighborhood roads, such as Dearmon Road, are narrow despite the number of homes and traffic using them.

The biggest transportation improvement project in the area is the Browne/Hucks Road project, which according to will include widening the lanes on both roads near the intersection from nine feet to 11 feet. Currently the project is slated to begin construction in late July-August of this year.

However, with the economic downturn, Davis Lake-Eastfield has seen a slowing of new construction. The lack of activity in the housing market halted construction on several projects in the area, which might give the city time to catch up on road improvements.

"The development of the area is a bit of a concern for me, but not as much as it used to be," said Chuck Harris, a resident of the neighborhood. "If there is any positive side to the economy/mortgage crisis, it would be that it slowed the growth and development in the area, which I think was getting way out of hand."

The closeness of community lingers in spite of the rapid development of the area. Though the numerous subdivisions and condominium developments are the prominent features in this neighborhood, there are communal areas, including the local churches and the Tradition Golf Course, managed by Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department.

Communal areas and neighborhood activities are crucial components to foster the feel of a close-knit community. On the side of Prosperity Church Road, a roadside "greenhouse" ushers in spring with plants and flowers. A sign at David Cox Road Elementary School invites neighbors to the screening of a film.

"Even though I don't live here, I do like the area. It seems to have strong family and neighbor relationships. People ...come out of their house(s) to interact within the neighborhood , visiting, and even in the newer neighborhoods, (there is) strong participation in neighborhood organizations," said Carol Mills, community liaison at a Davis Lake senior residential facility.

The Davis Lake-Eastfield neighborhood identity issues mirror the issues Charlotte currently faces: preserving a of community while dealing with growth and change. "Our city planners need to be mindful of the identity of each area they develop. History and culture should be preserved as much as possible while building in the name of progress," said Mills.