Charlotte’s Energetic Growth

The Queen City is Now Larger than San Francisco

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According to new official U.S. Census information, Charlotte, N.C. is now the 15th largest city in the country. This information looks at residents inside city limits only. In this way Charlotte far outranks Atlanta, which is only the 39th largest city. This changes when the broader metro area of a given city is included, but this is still impressive growth. In only a decade Charlotte has advance two places.

At some point between 2010 and 2015 Charlotte edged past Indianapolis, Ind. to reach #16. In rising to the 15th spot, Charlotte displaced San Francisco, Calif. at some point in late 2018 or early 2019. As with San Francisco and other large cities, the costs of living have increased.

This is especially true in terms of mortgages and rents, which has resulted in Charlotte’s well-documented affordable housing crisis. According to “The 2019 Charlotte-Mecklenburg State of Housing Instability & Homelessness Report,” the city had a deficit of 34,000 affordable units, and over 33 percent of Mecklenburg residents were “housing stressed” (meaning more than one third of a household’s income is used to pay for housing). This number rises to 46 percent of residents of color.

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Another similarity with San Francisco’s gentrification: Interesting neighborhoods are losing their unique qualities. In Charlotte, Plaza Midwood and NoDa are particularly changed by the new luxury apartments that have displaced the quirky businesses and people that once defined these enclaves. This process has been widely described in the national press for the Castro in San Francisco, but it has played out here as well.

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What is fueling this growth? Charlotte is the second largest banking center in the nation. It is also a huge center for energy and healthcare. The metro area is home to, or has a significant presence for, many Fortune 500 companies: Bank of America (#24), Wells Fargo (#26), Microsoft (#35), Lowe’s (#40), MetLife (#43), Centene Corporation (#61), Honeywell (#77), Time Warner Cable (#98), Duke Energy (#125), Dollar Tree (#134), Nucor (#151), Sonic Automotive (#298) and Sealed Air (#456).

Other cities in the top 100 in the Carolinas include Raleigh (#41), Greensboro (#67), Durham (#74), and Winston-Salem (#90). Of the 317 cities in the Unites States that have 100,000 or more inhabits within its city limits, the Carolinas also have Fayetteville, N.C. (#108), Cary, N.C. (#154), Charleston, S.C. (#200), Columbia, S.C. (#211), Wilmington, N.C. (#224), North Charleston, S.C. (#252, tied with Carlesbad, Calif.), and High Point, N.C. (#260).

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