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Charlotte: The Queen City

Realty Times Feature Article by Courtney Ronan

Throughout the last several years, news headlines and economic forecasts have reported the remarkable growth of the American Southeast. Atlanta has emerged as one of the leading cities in the United States in terms of job growth. Nipping at Atlanta's heels is Charlotte, North Carolina, a city that hasn't received as much media attention. But if current trends continue, it's likely that we'll be hearing much more about this beautiful Southern city in the near future.

Charlotte was named after Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III of England. In addition to a local economy currently growing by leaps and bounds, Charlotte's other quality of life factors rank high. First, its weather: Both summers and winters are relatively mild. While Charlotte experiences a fair dose of heat and cold, including a generous dumping of snow on occasion, the city is spared from the extremes so often faced by other cities located further north along the Eastern Seaboard, as well as south into South Carolina and Florida. Despite the mild weather conditions, Charlotte does experience four distinct seasons, including a yearly display of stunning fall foliage.

Charlotte's generally humid weather conditions produce a lush landscape comprised of gently rolling hills and rich, green forests. Those favorable weather conditions provide Charlotte's residents with the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors throughout most of the year. Golf, sailing and fishing are among the locals' favorite past-times -- not to mention day trips; Charlotte lies within two hours of the Great Smoky Mountains, three hours of the beaches of North and South Carolina and two hours of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Professional sports, too, are extremely popular, thanks in large part to the presence of the NFL Carolina Panthers, the WNBA Charlotte Sting and the NBA Charlotte Hornets.

As Charlotte's economy has grown and prospered, so has its wealth of cultural opportunities, including the Charlotte Symphony and Charlotte Philharmonic Orchestra; several theater companies (among them are the Charlotte Repertory Theater, North Carolina Dance Theater and Charlotte Children's Theater); and a variety of museums, such as the Charlotte Museum of History, Mint Museum of Art and Discovery Place. The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, a relatively new addition to Charlotte, provides an excellent venue for many of these world-class performances. Charlotte's warm reception to the arts has encouraged the development of a local population of artists, particularly along North Davidson Street, which has become something of an artists' haven. Each month the city of Charlotte hosts a Gallery Crawl on North Davidson Street, giving residents and visitors the opportunity to view the creations of local talent.

The presence of educational and research institutions such as the University of North Carolina at Charlotte have created a skilled workforce in the city's own backyard. Graduates who choose to remain in Charlotte find not only a diverse and receptive job market but also the benefits of an affordable housing market. Given the state of its economy, Charlotte's residential real estate market is thriving. Its housing inventory, in comparison to other United States cities, is reasonably priced and varied with respect to housing styles. That diversity has created a real estate market in which aspiring homeowners can find nearly any style or price to fit their individual preferences and budgetary parameters.

New construction, including a large number of luxury townhomes and single-family homes, is booming to accommodate relocating families and Charlotte's move-up buyers. Home prices range anywhere from the mid-$70s for a three-bedroom condo or townhome all the way up to $250,000 and up. Charlotte's rental housing market, too, is thriving. You'll find an astounding number of new luxury apartment communities throughout Charlotte, many of them situated in scenic, heavily wooded areas.

The epicenter of Charlotte's architectural history is along tree-lined Queens Road, lined with sprawling, classical homes. Several other neighborhoods -- including Plaza Hills, Elizabeth, Dilworth and Biddleville -- have made great efforts to preserve their historic residences, built in Colonial Revival, Queen Anne, Victorian and "bungalow" style, among many others.

The city's population has grown throughout the past decade to include subpopulations of German and Vietnamese immigrants, as well as relocating families from the Northeast and Western states. Newcomers to Charlotte are drawn here initially by the job market, but once they're here, they find much more than they expected -- namely, that good old Southern hospitality. Whether you're conducting business with a Fortune 500 firm or a small retail shop downtown, you'll find a premium placed on individual relationships. Charlotte also exudes its Southern roots through its culinary offerings. You'll find your share of "soul food" -- hearty Southern fare like catfish and grits -- as well as ethnic cuisine, reflecting the region's growing diversity. The coexistence of Southern gentility and urban progress is, indeed, the source of Charlotte's charm.

Courtney Ronan is a freelance writer who contributes a weekly column profiling various communities. She also writes a weekly review of real estate related web sites. Courtney's career in journalism has included recent stints as managing editor of Agent News and as associate editor of Texas Business magazine.

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