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2015 - Community Profile


This section of the Plan provides a general overview of Mecklenburg County and its incorporated municipal jurisdictions.  This section consists of the following five subsections:




MecklenburgCounty was formed in 1762 from the western part of AnsonCounty.  The county was named for Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744-1818), who had become queen consort of King George III the previous year.  Princess Charlotte is also the source of the MecklenburgCounty seat’s name.


In 1768 the part of MecklenburgCounty west of the Catawba River became TryonCounty.  In 1792 the northeastern part of MecklenburgCounty became CabarrusCounty.  Finally, in 1842 the southeastern part of MecklenburgCounty was combined with the western part of AnsonCounty to become UnionCounty. 




MecklenburgCounty is located in the south central portion of North Carolina and is bordered on the west by the Catawba River, on the north by IredellCounty, on the east by Cabarrus and Union counties, and on the south by the State of South Carolina.


North Carolina consists of 48,711 square miles of land and over 5,000 square miles of inland water including large areas of Lake Norman.  The total area of nearly 54,000 square miles ranks North Carolina 29th in area among the states.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, MecklenburgCounty contains a total area of 546 square miles, of which 526 square miles is comprised of land and the remaining 20 square miles is water.  Table 3.1 provides a summary of land area within Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte and the towns of Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville.


Table 3.1: Summary of Land Area










City of Charlotte




Town of Cornelius




Town of Davidson




Town of Huntersville




Town of Matthews




Town of Mint Hill




Town of Pineville








Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010


Figure 3.1 provides an overview of the geographic location of each municipal jurisdiction with the county.

Figure 3.1: Overview Map of MecklenburgCounty






There a seven incorporated municipalities within Mecklenburg County, each of which are very briefly introduced below (with 2008 2013 population estimate counts) and then further described in sections that follow.


City of Charlotte (Pop. 687,456792,862)

Charlotte was incorporated in 1768 (as a town, later as a city) and today is the largest city in North Carolina.  Nicknamed the Queen City in honor of Princess Charlotte, the city has become one of the nation’s largest financial centers serving as the home city for Bank of America and numerous other regional banking and financial services companies.  The city remains a major employment hub for North Carolina including more Fortune 500 companies than anywhere else in the state, several institutions of higher learning including the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, one of the busiest airports in the world and largest hub for US Airways and a major center for the U.S. motorsports industry, all of which has led to tremendous population growth and urban development in the past several decades.  While much of this development has occurred outward from the central business district, the center city/uptown area of Charlotte has experienced remarkable growth and revitalization over the last decade.  Numerous residential units continue to be built uptown, including over 20 skyscrapers either under construction, recently completed, or in the planning stage.  Many new restaurants, bars and clubs now operate in the uptown area and several projects are continuing to transform the Midtown Charlotte/Elizabeth area of this modern city. 


Town of Cornelius (Pop. 24,48726,898)

Established in 1905, the Town of Cornelius originated as a mill and farm community.  With the closing of the mills, the damming of the Catawba River, the development of I-77 and the growth of the Town as a result of its close proximity to Charlotte and Lake Norman, the Town has experienced dramatic population growth and significant development in recent years.  Since only 2000, the reported population for Cornelius has nearly doubled in size with one of the fastest growth rates in the state during that period. 


Town of Davidson (Pop. 10,30511,750)

Founded by a Presbyterian Church in 1835, the Town of Davidson was incorporated as Davidson College in 1879 but the name was changed to Davidson in 1907.  Traditionally a small, Southern college town (home to Davidson College) with engaged and active citizens, Davidson’s development patterns follow principles of new urbanism and include significant attention to open space (acquiring nearly 500 acres in the past five ten years), greenways and transportation systems built for pedestrians and cyclists.  In recent years the town has experienced a change in demographics with more retirees and fewer people directly connected to the college.


Town of Huntersville (Pop. 44,05450,458)

The Town of Huntersville was incorporated in 1873, with fertile land and a rail line promoting quick growth.  Cotton mill Virgin Manufacturing Company and a brickyard that supplied bricks for many homes in older sections of town were thriving businesses, and in later years textile mills brought more jobs and residents to the area helping the town become today’s second largest municipality in Mecklenburg County behind the City of Charlotte.  The Town has experienced rapid growth in recent years due to its proximity to Charlotte and Lake Norman, lower home prices and less traffic which has fueled a booming real estate and homebuilding industry.  Huntersville is fully committed to careful growth and development based upon the principles of traditional town planning, transit-oriented development, and quality urban design, and the Town has received regional and national attention due to its progressive and innovative growth management policies.


Town of Matthews (Pop. 26,90129,384)

The Town of Matthews began as a small farming community in the early 1800s but was not incorporated until 1879, shortly after the town’s first railroad stop.  Matthews continued to grow and the railroad remained an important and integral part of the community into the early 20th century in which cotton ginning was big business.  Keeping pace with population growth and continued development, Matthews is now largely 100% built-out and encompasses approximately 14 square miles between Charlotte and Mint Hill.  Recent planning efforts have been focused on downtown development and redevelopment opportunities.


Town of Mint Hill (Pop. 20,36924,543)

Although the Mint Hill community was first settled as early as 1750, the Town was not incorporated until 1971.  Primarily a suburban community adjacent to Charlotte, Mint Hill has seen an influx of luxury residential communities and the business district has shown intensified development in recent years with approximately 285 businesses and professional services available.  In 2003 the Town established its own Police Department to keep pace with the needs of a growing population and increased development (the Town had formerly been contracting with the City of Charlotte for police services).  The Town’s Planning and Zoning Department continues to provide long range planning, downtown revitalization and development review services to maintain Mint Hill’s quality of life.


Town of Pineville (Pop. 6,7918,061)

Located just south of the City of Charlotte, the Town of Pineville was incorporated in 1973 and today is well known for its antique shops lining Main Street in its historic downtown.  Primarily a suburban residential community, it continues to grow rapidly with the recent addition of many shopping centers, malls, businesses and churches.  Pineville now also has its own medical park with one of the finest hospitals in the area, and is located in close proximity to Paramount Carowinds amusement park which brings many visitors through the area on a regular basis.




According to the latest Census estimates (July 1, 20082014), North Carolina is the 10th most populous state in the United States with a resident population of 9,222,4149,943,964.  Over three decades (2000-2029) North Carolina's total population is projected to grow by approximately 4.5 million people (North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management).  Although not the fastest growing, Mecklenburg County remains the state’s most populated county.  According to census records, Mecklenburg County has a 2008 2013 estimated population of 890,515990,977 people – an increase of 28.17.8 percent since 2000 from the 2010 census count of 919,568, and approximately doublecompared with the statewide growth rate of 14.63.3 percent.  Today, Mecklenburg County remains North Carolina’s most densely populated county with 1,6301,755.5 people per square mile, and there are an estimated 403,304410,575 housing units at an average density of 766 per square mileTable 3.2 shows population and densities per square mile for population and housing units in Mecklenburg County as well as for each municipal jurisdiction and the entire state of North Carolina.



Table 3.2: Summary of Population, Population Density and Housing Unit Density






Mecklenburg County (total)




City of Charlotte




Town of Cornelius




Town of Davidson




Town of Huntersville




Town of Matthews




Town of Mint Hill




Town of Pineville








Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010,July 1, 20082013 Estimates

* No Census data on housing units available for 2008, so these estimates we’re generated using 2008 population data in combination with average household size according the most recent Census data (2000).


According to the official 2008 2013 estimates, the racial makeup of Mecklenburg County is 6459.7 percent White, 3032.1 percent Black or African American, 45.2 percent Asian, 0.50.8 percent American Indian or Alaskan Native, 0.1 percent Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 0.1 percent from other races, and 1.42.1 percent from two or more races.  Hispanic or Latino of any race makes up 10.812.6 percent of the county population.  Of the total population in Mecklenburg County, 8.37.1 percent are under 5 years old and 26.624.8 percent are under 18 years old.  A total of 8.39.7 percent are 65 years old and over.


Note: The remainder of this section on Population, Housing and Demographics summarizes the most up-to-date information for Mecklenburg County according to the 2006-20082009-2013 American Community Survey (ACS) performed by the U.S. Census Bureau.  The ACS is an on-going, nationwide survey that is sent to a sample of the population to help communities determine where to locate services and allocate resources.  It is a critical element in the Census Bureau's reengineered decennial census program.  The ACS collects and produces population and housing information every year instead of every ten years.


Households and Families

There are approximately 352,000366,689 households in Mecklenburg County with an average household size of 2.4 persons.  Families make up 62.2 percent of the households.  This figure includes both married-couple families (44 43.2 percent) and other families (1819.1 percent).  Nonfamily households make up 3837.8 percent of all households in Mecklenburg County.  Most of the nonfamily households were people living alone, but some were composed of people living in households in which no one was related to the householder.


Housing Characteristics

Of the approximately 400,000402,401 housing units in Mecklenburg County, it is estimated that 98.9 percent are vacant. Of the total housing units, 6867.1 percent are in single-unit structures, 3031.3 percent are in multi-unit structures, and 21.6 percent are mobile homes.  Forty-five49.8 percent of the housing units were built since 1990.  In 2006-20082009-2013, Mecklenburg County had 352,000366,689 occupied housing units - 224,000218240 (6459.5 percent) owner occupied and 128,000148,449 (3640.5 percent) renter occupied.  Five 2.1 percent of the households did not have telephone service and 67 percent of the households did not have access to a car, truck, or van for private use.  Forty 39.7 percent had two vehicles and another 1715.4 percent had three or more.


Housing Costs

The median monthly housing costs for mortgaged owners waswere $1,444$1,084, non-mortgaged owners $430, and renters $812.  Thirty-two percent of owners with mortgages, 12 percent of owners without mortgages, and 45 percent of renters in Mecklenburg County spent 30 percent or more of household income on housing.



The median income of households in Mecklenburg County is $56,766$55,444Eighty-eight85.1 percent of the households received earnings and 1212.6 percent received retirement income other than Social Security.  Eighteen 19.7 percent of the households received Social Security, with the average income amount being $15,461$17,767.  These income sources are not mutually exclusive; that is, some households received income from more than one source.


Nativity and Language

Thirteen 14.8 percent of the people living in Mecklenburg County are foreign born.  Eighty-seven85.2 percent are native, including 42 percent who were born in North Carolina.  Among people at least five years old living in Mecklenburg County, 1618.2 percent speak a language other than English at home.  Of those speaking a language other than English at home, 5748 percent speak Spanish and 4352 percent speak some other language; 50 52 percent reported that they did not speak English "very well."


Geographic Mobility

Seventy-seven percent of the people at least one year old living in Mecklenburg County were living in the same residence one year earlier; 13 percent had moved during the past year from another residence in the same county, 3 percent from another county in the same state, 6 percent from another state, and 1 percent from abroad.



Eighty-nine88.8 percent of people 25 years and over in Mecklenburg County have at least graduated from high school and 40 40.7 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher.  Eleven percent are dropouts; they were not enrolled in school and had not graduated from high school.  The total school enrollment in Mecklenburg County was 233,000260,915 in 2006-20082009-2013.  Nursery school and kindergarten enrollment was 34,00033,122 and elementary or high school enrollment was 142,000154,598 children. College or graduate school enrollment was 56,00073,195.



For the employed population 16 years and older, the leading types of industries in Mecklenburg County are educational services, health care and social assistance (18 19 percent), and finance and insurance, real estate and rental and leasing (1513 percent).


Occupations and Type of Employer

The most common occupations in Mecklenburg County are: management, professional, and related occupationsmanagement, business, science and arts occupations (40 41 percent); sales and office occupations (28 26 percent); service occupations (14 16 percent); production, transportation, and material moving occupations (910 percent); and natural resources, construction, andextraction, maintenance and repair occupations (910 percent).[1]  Eighty-five percent of the people employed are private wage and salary workers; 9 percent are federal, state, or local government workers; and 5 percent are self-employed in their own unincorporated businesses.


Travel to Work

Seventy-seven77.3 percent of Mecklenburg County workers drive to work alone, 12 10.2 percent carpool, 3 3.4 percent take public transportation, and 33.2 percent use other means.  The remaining 56 percent work at home.  Among those who commuted to work, it took them on average 24.7 minutes to get to work.


Poverty and Participation in Government Programs

Eleven 15.4 percent of people in Mecklenburg County are in below poverty level.  Fourteen percent of related children under 18 20.8 are below the poverty level, compared with 9 8.2 percent of people 65 years old and over.  Eight 11.9 percent of all families and 2229.5 percent of families with a female householder and no husband present have incomes below the poverty level.




U.S. Census 2000 2010 figures show that Mecklenburg County experienced a 36 24 percent population growth rate in the 1990sfrom 2000 to 2010, making it one of the fastest-growing areas in the country.  Since 2000 2010 that growth rate has slowed but remainsed steadily high with an increase of another 28 7.8 percent, as estimated in 20082013, adding an additional 195,14571,349 people to the county in a three-year period.  This rate of growth nearly doubles the statewide average of percent change of 14.63.3 percent from 2010 to 2013Cornelius has experienced the most explosive growth rate at  nearly 73 percent, or 10,310 people.  Table 3.3 provides a summary of the growth rates for each jurisdiction in Mecklenburg County between 2000 2010 and 2008 2013 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


Table 3.3: Population Growth in Mecklenburg County, 2000-2008


2008 2013 POPULATION




Mecklenburg County (total)




City of Charlotte




Town of Cornelius




Town of Davidson




Town of Huntersville




Town of Matthews




Town of Mint Hill




Town of Pineville




Source: U.S. Census Bureau


The fastrapid growth in population is reflected in the county’s pace of development.  Nearly every part of Mecklenburg County boasts some level of new development that has continued at a steady pace, seemingly immune to recent economic downturns.  Mecklenburg County is becoming more urban in character, and is projected to be fully developed or built out sometime between 2010 and 2015.[MJR1]   The U.S. Forest Service reports an approximate 14 percent loss of forestland in Mecklenburg County between 1990 and 2002, and according to the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources the county lost an additional 47,000 acres in forestland between 2004 and 2009 (35 percent change).  A study commissioned by the Charlotte Tree Advisory Commission indicated a 22 percent loss of tree cover and a 22 percent loss of open space between 1984 and 2001.


According to the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM), the county is projected to have a total population of more than 1.2 million by 2029.  Figure 3.2 illustrates this projected growth in comparison to historical population growth for Mecklenburg County according to OSBM data.


Figure 3.2: Historical and Projected Population Growth in Mecklenburg County, 1970–2029


Source: North Carolina Office of State Management and Budget, 2009.


Figure 3.3 shows the change in land use from 1980 to 2020 as predicted by a model developed by the Open Space Institute of the Carolinas (formerly Carolinas Land Conservation Network), a non-profit land conservation research and education organization.  Nicknamed the “Piedmont Green Plan,” it identifies open space as it existed in 1980 and 1990 based on satellite imagery, and uses population projections and adopted land use plans to project conversion of open space to developed uses by 2020.  For MecklenburgCounty, the model reports a decline in open space, for the years 1980 to 1990, from 41 percent of total land area to 36 percent, with a projected further drop to 17 percent by 2020.  This is the equivalent of five acres a day throughout the 40-year period of 1980 to 2020.


Figure 3.3: Land Use Change (1980-2020) for Charlotte Metropolitan Area


Source: 2004 State of the Environment Report for Mecklenburg County, North Carolina by the Mecklenburg County Land Use & Environmental Services Agency.

The County, in coordination with its municipal jurisdictions, has undertaken various efforts to preserve open space and maintain livability.  The public land acquisition effort has attempted to put three types of preserved land in place: large park sites geographically dispersed around the county, floodplains along major creeks, and watershed protection land around MountainIslandLake.  By the end of 2003, Mecklenburg County had acquired 833 acres of open space with the 1999 land purchase and parks bond funds to protect the Mountain Island Lake watershed, the main source of the county’s drinking water.  A number of additional County land acquisitions for open space have since been completed, including several large-scale acquisition and demolitions through Mecklenburg County’s Floodplain Buyout Program further described in Section 7: Capability Assessment.


The City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have adopted and continue to implement a “corridors and wedges” land use plan that envisions denser development along five key transportation corridors and less dense development in the wedges between corridors.  Integrating urban green space into plans for transit station areas in the corridors has emerged as a key ingredient in making density livable.  Each of the small towns within Mecklenburg County is attempting to manage their growth and maintain their individual character. In so doing they have engaged in a number of cooperative long-range projects with the County and each other designed to combat suburban sprawl, encourage commuter rail connections to surrounding communities, and preserve rural lands.


More information on current land use and future development trends in Mecklenburg County and how they relate to natural hazard vulnerability is provided in Section 6: Vulnerability Assessment, and Section 7: Capability Assessment.




The following primary data sources were among those used to collect the information presented in this section.


[1] This totals 103% due to rounding.

 [MJR1]Has this proven to be the case?

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