Welcome to "A Trifling Place," a podcast dedicated to exploring the ins-and-outs of Charlotte.
Just last year, more than 20,000 people moved to Charlotte. Many come from colder climates in the North and Midwest and a growing number of people are also moving to Charlotte from states farther South, like Florida.
Deciding where to live is a big decision, so I'll share with you my first impressions of Charlotte: Immigrants on Central, artists live in NoDA, hipsters occupy Plaza Midwood, Myers Park is old money, Dilworth has some high-profile mistresses, Ballyntyne is new money, college students live in University City and West Charlotte's got the airport.
So where are all these new people to Charlotte settling?
The short answer: everywhere. John Howard has served as a city planner for 12 years.
"When people relocate, they tend to go where their peers go," Howard says. "They go where their colleagues are living. And some people go where the school districts are perceived to be better than others. And they also go where they think it's safe. And a lot of it is based on your income and based on what you do for a living."
Take for example, Charlotte's immigrant population. Many settle along Central Avenue and South Boulevard. Howard says there are three main reasons: affordable living, shopping and transit.
"That kind of naturally gives people that comfort level to move to a place that feels like they can get around easily, they can afford to live there and they also have a population base that's already there that they can relate to," Howard says. "So there's that structure that's in place that makes it easier to move from one place to another."
These areas are otherwise known as Central Avenue's "international districts". They were stops on a bus tour of the city's lesser-known neighborhoods, sponsored by the Community Building Initiative.
"I'm Tom Hanchett, I'm staff historian with Levine Museum of the New South, so we'll start in the Center City and then we'll go out the West Side and then come back around the East Side, I'll bet you you'll see stuff that even if you think you know Charlotte real well that'll take you by surprise."
Hanchett and Howard led the bus tour together. When we reached Central Avenue, Hanchett had a good question: Why is Central Avenue called Central Avenue when it isn't in the center of anything?
"Central Avenue was an old farm road, you could still find parts of it called Lawyer's Road, it used to go out to the next courthouse, wherever that was, maybe even back towards Raleigh," Hanchett says. "But in the years right around 1900 this became one of Charlotte's first suburban areas and a trolley – street car – ran right down the middle of the street here and big old houses like you see on the right were built here. Piedmont Middle School was one of the first junior high schools in Charlotte because this was such a snazzy neighborhood. But, Myers Park won. Myers Park developed in 1911, just a little bit away from this sector of the city, really pulled the high-income folks away. And so everybody filled in. There's some high-income, there's some retail, there's some low-income. And it's a great incubator for new ideas."
There's also a particular stereotype about Central Avenue you may have heard …
"Lot of folks think this is the Latino side of town. It is not," Hanchett says. "There are a lot of Latino folks in different places – the new building on the left is Stefan Latorre's Law Office -- but look next to it: the Bosnian market, the Vietnamese pool hall. As we go down the street here there's another Vietnamese pool hall and yet another, I don't know what it is with these pool halls … What's happening is these little businesses which were vacant when I first came to Charlotte are filling up."
But there are a lot of Hispanics moving to North Carolina and specifically Charlotte. There's even a term for it academics like to use: Caro-Latina. Between 1980 and 2010, the Latino population in Charlotte grew from 7,000 to 95,000 – that's a 1000% percent increase. The Latino population is growing fastest here in Charlotte than anywhere else in the state. They now make up more than 13 percent of the city's population, according to the latest Census data.
We'll be exploring more neighborhoods in depth in future podcasts. But if you're thinking of moving down here, be sure to talk to people in the different neighborhoods you're considering moving to. After all it's the South and people are friendly -- or so they say …