North Mecklenburg/Lake Norman

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 20 miles north of Charlotte. Twenty years ago, this lake - created by then Duke Power Co. (now Duke Energy) - was a real hideaway. Surrounded by fishing shacks and old mobile homes accessible by winding, often unpaved roads, the lake was a weekend getaway, but nothing more. 
Then I-77 came through the territory and brought people along with its ribbon of pavement. You can still find some of those fishing shacks and weekend residents. But today, more and more folks live the vacation lifestyle in great style year-round, with plenty of shopping and restaurants nearby and direct access to jobs in uptown Charlotte, University City, the airport area or even right in north Mecklenburg. At the heart of it all is Lake Norman, whose shoreline stretches 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, Cornelius and Davidson in Mecklenburg County and the southern tip of Iredell County, which encompasses Mooresville and its shoreline. 
Growth has been huge. Because lake dwellers like their area so much, civic and government leaders have been working hard to develop long-range plans and regulations that protect the 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 of them 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. Retail has come to the area too. Where once lake residents were forced to drive into Charlotte to shop, today they can head for Exit 28 or the expansive NorthCross development at I-77 Exit 25 and spend their money on all manner of things. Lake shoppers can now browse BirkDale Village and area  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. NorthCross also has a thriving medical community, with many physicians' offices and outpatient surgery centers. Presbyterian Hospital continues to seek permission to build a hospital in this area of north Mecklenburg. 
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. (Swimming is prohibited in all Mecklenburg County parks.) At Latta Plantation Nature Preserve on nearby Mountain Island Lake, nature lovers can rent johnboats, canoes or horses by the hour. 
Golfers will 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, The Peninsula, Mallard Head and The Point just over the line in Iredell County, weekend duffers and serious competitors alike will have plenty of courses to choose from. 

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