This is going to be a little different than usual. It’s all about “What did I see in the Big City of Charlotte?”
Overall, I think that if there’s a poor economy, Charlotte isn’t suffering from it. I was there between lunch and the evening rush hour. I didn’t see the entire city, just a slice of it. On I-85, coming in from the north, everything appeared normal. I-85 goes through one of the “not as nice” parts of town on the north side. The entire area looked like it did when I was in town three months ago.
Along I-77, you see neighborhoods that have been gentrifying over the last few years on one side and others, “not as nice” on the other. The “not so nice” side again appeared as it was 3 months ago. The gentrifying side had a number of houses being built as “infill” development–building on formerly vacant lots. Basically, since it’s now a “nicer” neighborhood people are willing to build there.
The last part of town I saw was Tyvola Road going into the South Park area. South Park is a “very nice neighborhood”. Construction that had been underway was completed. A lot of new housing was being built, some as infill and some where existing structures have been knocked down so there can be progress, a process known to planners as “highest possible use” and to politicians as “expanded taxable base”. A large building containing two dozen $350,000+ townhouses brings in more property tax revenue than an old nasty industrial building does. This warms the hearts of city folks, it seems.
I remember when Charlotte was still a large-ish city, but when this area was beyond the city limits. It was quiet, with some houses, a little industrial presence and a bit of agriculture. I liked it then. Not so much now.
Traffic in Charlotte is, as in all large metro areas, a mess. Even during what should have been the afternoon lull, traffic was heavy. Not as in “heavy for the hick visiting the Big City” but heavy. Multi-cycle waits to get through traffic lights heavy. Waiting for the traffic on the other side of the cross street to move so you can go through your green light heavy. Bumper to bumper, stop and roll heavy. 30 MPH under the speed limit heavy.
I can remember when I wanted to live in a big city. Like so many, New York was my choice. At my current age, I have to wonder WTH younger me was thinking. I would live in a single-wide trailer in the woods before I’d live here. Of course, these days a single-wide way the heck back in the woods at the end of a half-mile dirt driveway sounds like an increasingly good idea.
One thing I always notice in Charlotte is the gang tagging, or more often, the lack of it. I suppose they have a crew or two whose job it is to go from place to place, sandblasting it off if possible and painting over it if not. These spots on walls, overpasses and buildings always draw my eye.
Evidence of homeless encampments was visible. They seem to be clustered around the interstate, where there is still some urban undergrowth to shield them from the eyes of the public and law enforcement. The most curious thing I saw was some clothing, hung like laundry on a line. The area was pretty open and there was no sign of anyone around it.
I didn’t see the homeless as you see them here in the Bitty Burg, walking down the side of the road or squatting at intersections, sign in hand. The only person I saw that was likely homeless was riding down the road on an old bicycle.
The few restaurants I passed were doing good business. South Park Mall was quite busy, with people coming and going in a constant stream. I wish I had had time to go to the mall. I used to love going to malls and just looking. None of the malls near us–either of them–would I consider safe enough for a visit. South Park I’d go to, even though it’s posted against concealed carry.
My old 2001 pickup truck was definitely out of place amongst all the new vehicles. I do wonder how many of those drivers are making car payments that would look like house payments to me. But people do give you room on the road. 🙂
I didn’t stop at any of the places I’d like to visit due to time constraints. I knew that I was going to be in the early part of rush hour leaving, and I wanted to get north of University City before the traffic really got heavy. I succeeded in that, only having to drive across most of Charlotte at 20+ MPH under the speed limit on the interstates.
So that’s what I saw. It’ll be interesting to see how things go should the economy continue to go south. In another three months, I’ll get another look-see.