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Best Places to Live
Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte embodies the best of the new south, including a budding art scene.
November 19, 2002: 6:24 AM EST
By Joan Caplin, MONEYMagazine

Best places to live around Charlotte
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (MONEY Magazine) - In September, the Charlotte Observer announced that it would run same-sex union announcements in addition to traditional marriage notices. One month later, the Rev. Billy Graham came to town and broke ground for his new headquarters. Welcome to the New South, where the traditional and the progressive live side by side, mostly peacefully.

Perhaps no place reflects this better than the North Davidson arts district-- or NoDa. Two miles north of downtown, this onetime cotton mill community was, until the mid-'80s, as derelict as its abandoned factories. Then the artists came in, attracted by the funky buildings and low rents.

"I moved here three years ago," says Linda Vista, an artist who spent most of her life out West, "because a painter friend told me it was a fabulous place for the arts. I felt at home right away." Today the landmark-designated mills are being converted into business and residential spaces while new town houses are filling up as fast as they are built.

Off the main street are early-1900s mill houses -- one-story wooden bungalows with surprisingly large yards where workers and their cows used to live. They start under $100,000 for fixer-uppers and average $150,000.

NoDa is also the place for nightlife, hosting some of the city's best restaurants and packed with enough arts outposts to warrant a bimonthly after-dark "gallery crawl" and enough of a family-orientation to merit a brand-new Montessori school.

If NoDa housed the mill workers, Dilworth, to the south, is where the mill owners lived. Originally a streetcar suburb, now part of the city proper, it is a stunning historic neighborhood with broad boulevards lined by million-dollar mansions and smaller bungalows that can be had for $250,00 to $400,000.

North of Charlotte, along man-made Lake Norman, a popular spot for water sports, lies Davidson. Known as the home of prestigious Davidson College, the town has a whiff of old New England about it.

The best values, though, are the new homes: They may not mirror what is most charming about Davidson, but some sell for as low as $225,000. Or cross the town line into the slightly more rural Cornelius for homes that cost a little less. Even if residents do see their neighbors from the kitchen window, both towns still feel a touch more country than suburban.  Top of page

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