Long-time residents can see change all over the Charlotte area. But evidence of that change is perhaps most striking in the Lake Norman area, some 25 miles north of Charlotte.
Thirty years ago, the lakecreated by Duke Power Co. (now Duke Energy)was a real hideaway. Surrounded by fishing shacks and old mobile homes, and accessible by winding, often unpaved roads, the lake was a weekend getawaybut nothing more.
Then I-77 came through the territory and brought people along with its ribbon of pavement. You still can find some of those fishing shacks and weekend residents. But today, more and more folks live the vacation lifestyle year-round, with plenty of shopping and restaurants nearby and direct access to jobs in Uptown Charlotte, University City, the airport area or even north Mecklenburg.
At the heart of it all is Lake Norman
, with shoreline stretching 520 miles through four counties: Mecklenburg, Iredell, Lincoln and Catawba. It’s often referred to as the Inland Sea.
When Charlotteans refer to the Lake Norman area, they usually mean the area north of the Harris Boulevard/I-77 interchange, which includes Huntersville
in Mecklenburg County and the southern tip of Iredell County, which encompasses Mooresville
and its shoreline.
Growth has been huge, with some 80,000 people living here now. Because lake dwellers like their area so much, civic and government leaders are working hard to develop long-term plans and regulations to protect the small-town atmosphere.
Along the way, some are coming up with some creative ideas, including several new urban communities. Developers are increasingly seeing the promise in rehabbing old mills and downtown buildings to create unusual offices, retail centers and even residential complexes.
North Mecklenburg has three incorporated towns: Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson. All have seen tremendous residential growth, and all are home to some thriving businesses. Davidson also is a college town, home to highly regarded Davidson College
, which adds an ivy-league atmosphere to the community.
Near the I-77/I-485 interchange, NorthLake Mall
opened in 2005 with 150 specialty stores and anchors Dillard’s, Belk, Hecht’s, Dick Sporting Goods and a 14-screen cinema megaplex. The 1.1 million-square-foot facility brings thousands of new jobs to the area.
Lake shoppers now can browse unique boutiques, quaint village shops, upscale specialty stores and national chains such as Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Stein Mart, Kohl’s and Old Navy. Several Charlotte specialty retailers have opened second sites at the lake, as have a number of restaurants.
, a new, 52-acre mixed-use development in Huntersville off Sam Furr Road, offers more than 60 stores and restaurants including Williams-Sonoma, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor Loft, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Barnes and Noble, and a 16-screen movie theater. Across the street is the 18 hole golf course
& the popular Birkdale neighborhood
has a thriving medical community, with many physicians’ offices and outpatient surgery centers. In 2004, Presbyterian Hospital
opened its Huntersville hospital on Gilead Road.
If you choose not to live on the lake, or you live there but don’t have access to the lake in your community, you’ll want to take advantage of the many waterfront parks and public-access areas. Jetton Park
, Blythe Landing
and Ramsey Creek Park
in the Cornelius/Huntersville area offer boat launching ramps, paved bike and walking trails, playgrounds, tennis courts and athletic fields, fishing piers and sandy beaches.
Golfers have no shortage of links to test their mettle. From Birkdale’s Arnold Palmer-designed course to Northstone’s P.B. Dye course to Muirfield, Mallard Head and The Point (just over the line in Iredell County), there are plenty of courses for weekend duffers and serious competitors alike.
Allen Tate Company