Huntersville, North Carolina
Attracting families and lake lovers alike, Huntersville has experienced a population surge that continues to transform this once-small town.
Huntersville incorporated in 1873 and was named for Robert Boston Hunter, a land owner and cotton farmer. The town grew in response to the railroad and a nearby cotton mill, but it wasn't until the late 20th century that Huntersville saw a boom in population and development.
In 1990, Huntersville's population was a mere 3,000. During the 1990s, it jumped to 25,000, an increase of 733 percent. Today, Huntersville is home to some 35,000 residents, a number that continues to climb.
To avoid the sprawl that was quickly consuming other towns in the Charlotte area, Huntersville took action. In 1996, officials approved a land-use plan that encourages mixed housing, a connected network of streets friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists, high-density development along existing highways and future rail lines, village centers that combine retail and residential development and the preservation of open space.
This philosophy can be seen with the creation of Birkdale Village in 2002, an urban village of shops, luxury apartments, offices and restaurants where residents don't need to drive to get what they need. Birkdale Village, which offers 320 one- to three-bedroom apartments located above the retail shops, provides a clubhouse, pool and an Arnold Palmer golf course just across the street that is hailed as one of the finest courses in the state. In addition to its shops, which include Barnes & Noble, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and Williams-Sonoma, Birkdale has a 16-screen movie theater, a greenway and interactive water fountains popular with kids on warm summer days.
The Greens at Birkdale Village is a subdivision behind the retail center that includes bungalows. Along one street, the aptly-named "Rainbow Row" features houses painted yellow, orange, green and purple.
In 2004, Presbyterian Healthcare introduced Presbyterian Huntersville, which provides health care for northern Mecklenburg. The 50-bed hospital on Gilead Road includes an emergency department, five operating rooms, three endoscopy rooms, four intensive care unit beds, eight labor and delivery beds, 35 medical/surgical beds, 10 observation beds and a medical office building.
To fill a retail void in north Mecklenburg, Northlake Mall recently opened just south of Huntersville near the intersection of I-77 and Reames Road. Anchored by Belk, Dillard's, Hecht's and a 14-screen cinema megaplex, the mall includes more than 150 specialty stores.
With the largest nature preserve in Mecklenburg County, Latta Plantation Park contains 1,290 acres of natural beauty along the shores of Mountain Island Lake. Families can spend an entire day at Latta Plantation Park, which is equipped with picnic sites, fishing docks, and hiking and equestrian trails, many which offer spectacular views of Mountain Island Lake.
The park also includes Historic Latta Plantation, which hosts guided tours of the Federal-style home and grounds. Actors and exhibits depict the lives of yeoman farmers and plantation slaves.
The Carolina Raptor Center is an educational and research facility that rehabilitates birds of prey. Visitors can view and learn about birds in different stages of recovery.
Just outside of Latta Plantation Park stands Hopewell Presbyterian Church, founded in 1762. Its cemetery is the final resting place of many historical figures, including several signers of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, James Latta and Gen. William Lee Davidson, who was killed at the Battle of Cowans Ford during the Revolutionary War. Another historic site is the Hugh Torance House and Store on Gilead Road, the oldest standing store structure in North Carolina. Dating back to the 18th century, the site hosts tours and special events throughout the year.
The Loch Norman Highland Games celebrates the area's Scottish heritage every April. Held at Historic Rural Farm in Huntersville, the three-day festival involves food, family activities, music and athletic competitions.
Blythe Landing, a 26-acre park on the shores of Lake Norman, includes floating piers perfect for launching boats and Dockside Café, where you can grab a sandwich and fishing bait in one stop. The park also provides volleyball courts, a playground and a picnic area.
The Energy Explorium at McGuire Nuclear Station teaches children about energy. Here, you can take a virtual tour of the nuclear station, play interactive games, have a picnic and take a walk down a mile-long trail along the shores of the lake.