Charlotte is home to the corporate headquarters of Bank of America and the east coast operations of Wells Fargo, which along with other financial institutions made it the second-largest banking center in the United States from 1995 to 2017 and the third-largest from 2017 to present. Among Charlotte's many notable attractions, some of the most popular include the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL), the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association (NBA), the Charlotte Independence of the United Soccer League (USL), two NASCAR Sprint Cup races and the NASCAR All-Star Race, the Wells Fargo Championship, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Charlotte Ballet, Carowinds amusement park, and the U.S. National Whitewater Center. Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a major international hub, and was ranked the 23rd-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic in 2013.
Charlotte has a humid subtropical climate. It is located several miles east of the Catawba River and southeast of Lake Norman, the largest man-made lake in North Carolina. Lake Wylie and Mountain Island Lake are two smaller man-made lakes located near the city.
The Catawba Native Americans were the first to settle Mecklenburg County (in the Charlotte area) and were first recorded in European records around 1567. By 1759 half the Catawba tribe had been killed by smallpox. At the time of their largest population, Catawba people numbered 10,000, but by 1826 that number dropped to 110.
Mecklenburg County was initially part of Bath County (1696 to 1729) of New Hanover Precinct, which became New Hanover County in 1729. The western portion of New Hanover split into Bladen County in 1734, its western portion splitting into Anson County in 1750. Mecklenburg County formed from Anson County in 1762. Further apportionment was made in 1792, with Cabarrus County formed from Mecklenburg, and in 1842, with Union County formed from Mecklenburg's southeastern portion and from a western portion of Anson County. These areas were all part of one of the original six judicial/military districts of North Carolina known as the Salisbury District.
The area that is now Charlotte was settled by people of European descent around 1755, when Thomas Spratt and his family settled near what is now the Elizabeth neighborhood. Thomas Polk (granduncle of U.S. President James K. Polk), who later married Thomas Spratt's daughter, built his house by the intersection of two Native American trading paths between the Yadkin and Catawba rivers. One path ran north–south and was part of the Great Wagon Road; the second path ran east–west along what is now Trade Street.
Nicknamed the Queen City, like its county a few years earlier, Charlotte was named in honor of German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who had become the Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland in 1761, just seven years before the town's incorporation. A second nickname derives from the American Revolutionary War, when British commander General Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis occupied the city but was driven out by hostile residents, prompting him to write that Charlotte was "a hornet's nest of rebellion", leading to the nickname The Hornet's Nest.
Within decades of Polk's settling, the area grew to become "Charlotte Town", incorporating in 1768. The crossroads, perched atop the Piedmont landscape, became the heart of Uptown Charlotte. In 1770, surveyors marked the streets in a grid pattern for future development. The east–west trading path became Trade Street, and the Great Wagon Road became Tryon Street, in honor of William Tryon, a royal governor of colonial North Carolina. The intersection of Trade and Tryon—commonly known today as "Trade & Tryon," or simply "The Square"—is more properly called "Independence Square".
While surveying the boundary between the Carolinas in 1772, William Moultrie stopped in Charlotte Town, whose five or six houses were "very ordinary built of logs".
Local leaders came together in 1775 and signed the Mecklenburg Resolves, more popularly known as the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. While not a true declaration of independence from British rule, it is among the first such declarations that eventually led to the American Revolution. May 20, the traditional date of the signing of the declaration, is celebrated annually in Charlotte as "MecDec", with musket and cannon fire by reenactors in Independence Square. North Carolina's state flag and state seal also bear the date.
Charlotte is traditionally considered the home of Southern Presbyterianism, but in the 19th century, numerous churches, including Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic formed, eventually giving Charlotte the nickname, "The City of Churches".
In 1799, in nearby Cabarrus County, 12-year-old Conrad Reed found a 17-pound rock, which his family used as a doorstop. Three years later, a jeweler determined it was nearly solid gold, paying the family a paltry $3.50. The first documented gold find in the United States of any consequence set off the nation's first gold rush. Many veins of gold were found in the area throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, leading to the 1837 founding of the Charlotte Mint. North Carolina was the chief producer of gold in the United States until the Sierra Nevada find in 1848, although the volume mined in the Charlotte area was dwarfed by subsequent rushes.
Some groups still pan for gold occasionally in local streams and creeks. The Reed Gold Mine operated until 1912. The Charlotte Mint was active until 1861, when Confederate forces seized it at the outbreak of the Civil War. The mint was not reopened at the war's end, but the building, albeit in a different location, now houses the Mint Museum of Art.
The city's first boom came after the Civil War, as a cotton processing center and a railroad hub. Charlotte's city population at the 1880 Census grew to 7,084.
Population grew again during World War I, when the U.S. government established Camp Greene north of present-day Wilkinson Boulevard. Many soldiers and suppliers stayed after the war, launching an urban ascent that eventually overtook older city rivals along the Piedmont Crescent.
The city's modern-day banking industry achieved prominence in the 1970s and 1980s, largely under the leadership of financier Hugh McColl. McColl transformed North Carolina National Bank (NCNB) into a formidable national player that through aggressive acquisitions became known as NationsBank, eventually merging with BankAmerica to become Bank of America. First Union, later Wachovia in 2001, experienced similar growth before it was acquired by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo in 2008. Measured by control of assets, Charlotte is the second largest banking headquarters in the United States, after New York City.
On September 22, 1989, the city took a direct hit from Hurricane Hugo. With sustained winds of 69 mph (111 km/h) and gusts of 87 mph (140 km/h) in some locations, Hugo caused massive property damage, destroyed 80,000 trees, and knocked out electrical power to most of the population. Residents were without power for weeks, schools were closed for a week or more, and the cleanup took months. The city was caught unprepared; Charlotte is 200 miles (320 km) inland, and residents from coastal areas in both Carolinas often wait out hurricanes in Charlotte.
In December 2002, Charlotte and much of central North Carolina were hit by an ice storm that resulted in more than 1.3 million people losing power. During an abnormally cold December, many were without power for weeks. Many of the city's Bradford pear trees split apart under the weight of the ice.
In August 2015 and in September 2016, the city experienced several days of protests related to the police shootings of Jonathan Ferrell and Keith Scott.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 297.68 square miles (771.0 km2), of which 297.08 square miles (769.4 km2) is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km2) is water. Charlotte lies at an elevation of 748 feet (228 m), as measured at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport. Charlotte constitutes most of Mecklenburg County in the Carolina Piedmont. Charlotte center city sits atop a long rise between two creeks, Sugar Creek and Irwin Creek, and was built on the gunnies of the St. Catherine's and Rudisill gold mines.
Though the Catawba River and its lakes lie several miles west, there are no significant bodies of water or other geological features near the city center. Consequently, development has neither been constrained nor helped by waterways or ports that have contributed to many cities of similar size. The lack of these obstructions has contributed to Charlotte's growth as a highway, rail, and air transportation hub.
Charlotte has 199 neighborhoods radiating in all directions from Uptown. Biddleville, the primary historic center of Charlotte's African-American community, is west of Uptown, starting at the Johnson C. Smith University campus and extending to the airport. East of The Plaza and north of Central Avenue, Plaza-Midwood is known for its international population, including Eastern Europeans, Greeks, Middle-Easterners, and Hispanics. North Tryon and the Sugar Creek area include several Asian-American communities. NoDa (North Davidson), north of Uptown, is an emerging center for arts and entertainment. Myers Park, Dilworth, and Eastover are home to some of Charlotte's oldest and largest houses, on tree-lined boulevards, with Freedom Park, arguably the city's favorite, nearby.
Park Road and the SouthPark area have an extensive array of shopping and dining offerings, with SouthPark essentially serving as a second urban core. Blossoming neighborhoods like Sedgefield, Dilworth and South End are great examples of that. Far South Boulevard is home to a large Hispanic community. Many students, researchers, and affiliated professionals live near UNC Charlotte in the northeast area known as University City.
The large area known as Southeast Charlotte is home to many golf communities, luxury developments, mega-churches, the Jewish community center, and private schools. As undeveloped land within Mecklenburg has become scarce, many of these communities have expanded into Weddington and Waxhaw in Union County. Ballantyne, far south Charlotte, and nearly every area on the I‑485 perimeter, have seen extensive growth over the past ten years.
Since the 1980s in particular, Uptown Charlotte has undergone massive construction of buildings, housing Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Hearst Corporation, Duke Energy, several hotels, and multiple condominium developments.
The 120‑acre Park Road Park is a prominent landmark of the SouthPark neighborhood. Park Road Park features 8 basketball courts, 2 horseshoe pits, 6 baseball fields, 5 Picnic Shelters, volleyball courts, playgrounds, trails, tennis courts, and an eleven-acre lake. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Parks & Recreation Department operates 36 tennis facilities and the 12 lighted tennis courts at the park.
The urban section of Little Sugar Creek Greenway was completed in 2012. Inspired in part by the San Antonio River Walk, and integral to Charlotte's extensive urban park system, it is "a huge milestone" according to Gwen Cook, greenway planner for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.
Charlotte, like much of the Piedmont region of the southeastern United States, has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa), with four distinct seasons; the city itself is part of USDA hardiness zone 8a, transitioning to 7b in the suburbs in all directions except the south. Winters are short and generally cool, with a January daily average of 40.1 °F (4.5 °C). On average, there are 59 nights per year that drop to or below freezing, and only 1.5 days that fail to rise above freezing. April is the driest month, with an average of 3.04 inches (7.7 cm) of precipitation. Summers are hot and humid, with a daily average in July of 78.5 °F (25.8 °C). There is an average 44 days per year with highs at or above 90 °F (32 °C). Official record temperatures range from 104 °F (40 °C) recorded six times, most recently on July 1, 2012, down to −5 °F (−21 °C) recorded on January 21, 1985, the most recent of three occasions. The record cold daily maximum is 14 °F (−10 °C) on February 12 and 13, 1899, and the record warm daily minimum is 82 °F (28 °C) on August 13, 1881. The average window for freezing temperatures is November 5 through March 30, allowing a growing season of 220 days.
Charlotte is directly in the path of subtropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico as it heads up the eastern seaboard, thus the city receives ample precipitation throughout the year but also many clear, sunny days; precipitation is generally less frequent in autumn than in spring. On average, Charlotte receives 41.6 inches (1,060 mm) of precipitation annually, which is somewhat evenly distributed throughout the year, although summer is slightly wetter; annual precipitation has historically ranged from 26.23 in (666 mm) in 2001 to 68.44 in (1,738 mm) in 1884. In addition, there is an average of 4.3 inches (10.9 cm) of snow, mainly in January and February and rarely December or March, with more frequent ice storms and sleet mixed in with rain; seasonal snowfall has historically ranged from trace amounts as recently as 2011–12 to 22.6 in (57 cm) in 1959–60. These storms can have a major impact on the area, as they often pull tree limbs down onto power lines and make driving hazardous.
The most recent U.S. Census estimate (2014, released in May 2015) showed 809,958 residents living within Charlotte's city limits and 1,012,539 in Mecklenburg County. The Combined Statistical Area, or trade area, of Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC had a population of 2,537,990. Figures from the more comprehensive 2010 census show Charlotte's population density to be 2,457 per square mile (948.7/km²). There are 319,918 housing units at an average density of 1,074.6 per square mile (414.9/km²).
According to the 2010 United States Census, the racial composition of Charlotte was:White or Caucasian: 45.1%
Black or African American: 35.0%
Native American: 0.5%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 0.1%
some other race: 6.8%
two or more races: 2.7%
In 1970, the Census Bureau reported Charlotte's population as 30.2% Black and 68.9% White.
The median income for a household in the city is $48,670, and the median income for a family is $59,452. Males have a median income of $38,767 versus $29,218 for females. The per capita income for the city is $29,825. The percentage of the population living at or below the poverty line is 10.6%, with 7.8% of families living at or below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 13.8% of those under the age of 18 and 9.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Charlotte has historically been a Protestant city. It is the birthplace of Billy Graham, and is also the historic seat of Southern Presbyterianism, but the changing demographics of the city's increasing population have brought scores of new denominations and faiths. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Wycliffe Bible Translators' JAARS Center, and SIM Missions Organization make their homes in the Charlotte general area. In total, Charlotte proper has 700 places of worship.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is now the fourth largest denomination in Charlotte, with 68,000 members and 206 congregations. The second largest Presbyterian denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America has 43 churches and 12,000 members, followed by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church with 63 churches and 9,500 members.
The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America is headquartered in Charlotte, and both Reformed Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary have campuses there; more recently, the Religious Studies academic departments of Charlotte's local colleges and universities have also grown considerably.
The Advent Christian Church is headquartered in Charlotte.
The Western North Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church is headquartered in Charlotte.
The largest Protestant church in Charlotte, by attendance, is Elevation Church, a Southern Baptist church founded by lead pastor Steven Furtick. The church has over 15,000 congregants at nine Charlotte locations.
Charlotte's Cathedral of Saint Patrick is the seat of the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte. The Traditional Latin Mass is offered by the Society of St. Pius X at St. Anthony Catholic Church in nearby Mount Holly. The Traditional Latin Mass is also offered at St. Ann, Charlotte, a church under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Charlotte. St. Matthew Parish, located in the Ballantyne neighborhood, is the largest Catholic parish with over 30,000 parishioners.
The Greek Orthodox Church's cathedral for North Carolina, Holy Trinity Cathedral, is located in Charlotte.
Charlotte has the largest Jewish population in the Carolinas. Shalom Park in south Charlotte is the hub of the Jewish community, featuring two synagogues, Temple Israel and Temple Beth El, as well as a community center, the Charlotte Jewish Day School for grades K-5, and the headquarters of the Charlotte Jewish News.
Most African Americans in Charlotte are Baptists affiliated with the National Baptist Convention, the largest predominantly African American denomination in the United States. African American Methodists are largely affiliated with either the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, headquartered in Charlotte, or the African Methodist Episcopal Church. African American Pentecostals are represented by several organizations such as the United House of Prayer for All People, Church of God in Christ, and the United Holy Church of America.
As of 2013, 51.91% of people in Charlotte were religiously affiliated, making it the second most religious city in North Carolina after Winston-Salem. The largest religion in Charlotte is Christianity, with Baptists (13.26%) having the largest number of adherents. The second largest Christian group is Roman Catholic (9.43%), followed by Methodist (8.02%) and Presbyterian (5.25%). Other Christian affiliates include Pentecostal (2.50%), Lutheran (1.30%), Episcopalian (1.20%), Latter-Day Saints (0.84%), and other Christian (8.87%) churches, including Eastern Orthodox and non-denominational. Judaism (0.57%) is the second largest religion after Christianity, followed by Eastern religions (0.34%) and Islam (0.32%).
Charlotte has become a major U.S. financial center with the third most banking assets after New York City and San Francisco. The nation's second largest financial institution by total assets, Bank of America, calls the city home. The city was also the former corporate home of Wachovia until its 2008 acquisition by Wells Fargo; Wells Fargo integrated legacy Wachovia, with the two banks fully merged at the end of 2011, which included transitioning all of the Wachovia branches in the Carolinas to Wells Fargo branches by October 2011. Since then, Charlotte has become the regional headquarters for East Coast operations of Wells Fargo, which is headquartered in San Francisco, California. Charlotte also serves as the headquarters for Wells Fargo's capital markets activities including sales and trading, equity research, and investment banking. Bank of America's headquarters, along with other regional banking and financial services companies, are located primarily in the Uptown central business district. Microsoft's East Coast headquarters are located in Charlotte.
Charlotte has six Fortune 500 companies in its metropolitan area. Listed in order of their rank, they are: Bank of America, Lowe's in suburban Mooresville, Duke Energy, Nucor (steel producer), Sonic Automotive and Sealed Air Corp. The Charlotte area includes a diverse range of businesses, including foodstuffs such as Chiquita Brands International, Harris Teeter, Snyder's-Lance, Carolina Foods Inc, Bojangles', Food Lion, Compass Group USA, and Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated (Charlotte being the nation's second largest Coca-Cola bottler); motor and transportation companies such as RSC Brands, Continental Tire the Americas, LLC., Meineke Car Care Center, Carlisle Companies (along with several other services), along with a wide array of other businesses.
Charlotte is the major center in the U.S. motorsports industry, housing multiple offices of NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. Approximately 75% of the NASCAR industry's race teams, employees and drivers are based nearby. The large presence of the racing technology industry and the newly built NHRA dragstrip, zMAX Dragway at Concord, are influencing other top professional drag racers to move their shops to Charlotte as well.
Located in the western part of Mecklenburg County is the U.S. National Whitewater Center, which consists of man-made rapids of varying degrees, is open to the public year-round.
The Charlotte Region has a major base of energy-oriented organizations and has become known as "Charlotte USA – The New Energy Capital." In the region there are more than 240 companies directly tied to the energy sector, collectively employing more than 26,400. Since 2007 more than 4,000 energy sector jobs have been announced. Major energy players in Charlotte include AREVA, Babcock & Wilcox, Duke Energy, Electric Power Research Institute, Fluor, Metso Power, Piedmont Natural Gas, Siemens Energy, Shaw Group, Toshiba, URS Corp., and Westinghouse. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has a reputation in energy education and research, and its Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC) trains energy engineers and conducts research.
The area is an increasingly growing trucking and freight transportation hub for the East Coast. The Charlotte Center city has seen remarkable growth over the last decade. Numerous residential units continue to be built uptown, including over 20 skyscrapers under construction, recently completed, or in the planning stage. Many new restaurants, bars and clubs now operate in the Uptown area. Several projects are transforming the Midtown Charlotte/Elizabeth area.
In 2013, Forbes named Charlotte among its list of Best Places for Business and Careers. Charlotte was listed as the 20th largest city in the US, and the 60th fastest growing city in the US between 2000 and 2008.
According to Charlotte's 2014 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
Billy Graham Library
Carolinas Aviation Museum
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Fire Education Center and Museum
Charlotte Nature Museum in Freedom Park
Charlotte Trolley Museum in Historic South End
Discovery Place KIDS-Huntersville
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
Historic Rosedale Plantation
Levine Museum of the New South
The Light Factory
McColl Center for Visual Art
NASCAR Hall of Fame
Second Ward Alumni House Museum
Wells Fargo History Museum
Charlotte Museum of History
Actor's Theatre of Charlotte
Amos' Southend Music Hall
Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
Charlotte Symphony Orchestra
Children's Theatre of Charlotte
North Carolina Music Factory
The Robot Johnson Show
Citizens of the Universe
Carolina Renaissance Festival
The Charlotte region is home to many annual festivals and special events. The Carolina Renaissance Festival operates on Saturdays and Sundays each October and November. Located near the intersection of Highway 73 and Poplar Tent Road, the Carolina Renaissance Festival is one of the largest renaissance themed events in the country. It features 11 stages of outdoor variety entertainment, a 22-acre village marketplace, an interactive circus, an arts and crafts fair, a jousting tournament, and a feast, all rolled into one non-stop, day-long family adventure.
Charlotte is "... the largest metropolitan area in the United States without a zoo." The Charlotte Zoo initiative is a proposal to allocate 250 acres (101 ha) of natural North Carolina land to be dedicated to the zoological foundation, which was incorporated in 2008. On August 18, 2012, News Channel 14 says that the initiative is "... still a few years away" and the plot of land is "... just seven miles from the center of uptown." According to the news channel, "... the zoo will cost roughly $300 million, and will be completely privately-funded." The Charlotte Observer references two other zoos, the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden and the North Carolina Zoological Park as two "great zoos" that are accessible from the Charlotte-Mecklenberg area, both roughly more than 70 miles away.
Charlotte is also served by the Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium in the nearby city of Concord. The aquarium is 30,000 square feet in size, and is part of the Concord Mills mall. The aquarium opened on February 20, 2014.
Charlotte is home to two major professional sports franchises: the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL) and the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Panthers have been located in Charlotte since the team's creation in 1995, and the current Hornets franchise has been located in Charlotte since its creation in 2004. The Panthers play their home games in Bank of America Stadium, while the Hornets play in the Spectrum Center. The original Hornets NBA franchise was established in 1988 as an expansion team, but it relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana in 2002 after animosity grew between the team's fans and principal owner George Shinn. The NBA quickly granted Charlotte an expansion franchise following the departure of the Hornets, and the new franchise, the Charlotte Bobcats, began to play in 2004. The team retook the Hornets name when the New Orleans-based team renamed itself the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013. The name change became official on May 20, 2014, along with the revelation that the franchise would reclaim the history and records of the original 1988–2002 Hornets. Charlotte is represented in ice hockey and baseball at the 'AAA' professional level by the Charlotte Checkers and the Charlotte Knights, and in professional ultimate by the Charlotte Express of the American Ultimate Disc League.
Charlotte has a council-manager form of government. The mayor and city council are elected every two years, with no term limits. The mayor is ex officio chairman of the city council, and only votes in case of a tie. Unlike other mayors in council-manager systems, Charlotte's mayor has the power to veto ordinances passed by the council; vetoes can be overridden by a two-thirds majority of the council. The council appoints a city manager to serve as chief administrative officer.
Unlike some other cities and towns in North Carolina, elections are held on a partisan basis. The current mayor is Jennifer Roberts. A recent mayor of Charlotte was Patrick Cannon, a member of the Democratic Party. Cannon was sworn in as mayor on December 2, 2013. On March 26, 2014, Mayor Patrick Cannon was arrested on public corruption charges. Later the same day, he resigned as mayor. On April 7, the city council held a special election and selected State Senator Dan Clodfelter, also a Democrat, to fill out the balance of Cannon's term.
Charlotte tends to lean Democratic, but voters are friendly to moderates of both parties. Republican strength is concentrated in the southeastern portion of the city, while Democratic strength is concentrated in the south-central, eastern, and northern areas.
The city council comprises 11 members (7 from districts and 4 at-large). Democrats control the council with a 9-to-2 advantage, winning all 4 of the at-large seats in the November 2013 municipal election. While the city council is responsible for passing ordinances, many policy decisions must be approved by the North Carolina General Assembly as well, since North Carolina municipalities do not have home rule. Since the 1960s, however, municipal powers have been broadly construed.
Charlotte is split between three congressional districts on the federal level—the 8th, represented by Republican Richard Hudson; the 9th, represented by Republican Robert Pittenger; and the 12th, represented by Democrat Alma Adams.
Charlotte was selected in 2011 to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, which was held at the Spectrum Center. It began September 4, 2012, and ended on September 6.
Emergency medical services for the city of Charlotte are provided by MEDIC, the Mecklenburg EMS agency. MEDIC responded to over 93,000 calls for help in 2008, and transported over 71,000 patients to the major hospitals in Charlotte. The agency employs nearly 350 paramedics, EMTs, and EMDs. In addition to dispatching MEDIC's EMS calls, the agency also dispatches all county fire calls outside of the city of Charlotte. At any given time, between 20 and 40 ambulances will be deployed to cover the county.
The Charlotte Fire Department provides fire suppression, emergency medical services, public education, hazardous materials (HAZMAT) mitigation, technical rescues, and fire prevention and inspection with 1,164 personnel. Forty-two fire stations are strategically scattered throughout Charlotte to provide a reasonable response time to emergencies in the city limits.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) is a combined jurisdiction agency. The CMPD has law enforcement jurisdiction in both the city of Charlotte and the few unincorporated areas left in Mecklenburg County. The other small towns maintain their own law enforcement agencies for their own jurisdictions. The department consists of approximately 1,700 sworn law enforcement officers, 550 civilian personnel, and more than 400 volunteers. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department divides the city into 13 geographic areas, which vary in size both geographically and by the number of officers assigned to each division. The total crime index for Charlotte is 589.2 crimes committed per 100,000 residents as of 2008 and has shown a steady decline since 2005. The national average is 320.9 per 100,000 residents. An average of 4,939 vehicles are stolen every year in Charlotte.
According to the Congressional Quarterly Press; '2008 City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America,' Charlotte, North Carolina ranks as the 62nd most dangerous city larger than 75,000 inhabitants. However, the entire Charlotte-Gastonia Metropolitan Statistical Area ranked as 27th most dangerous out of 338 metro areas.
The city's public school system, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, is the 2nd largest in North Carolina and 17th largest in the nation. In 2009, it won the NAEP Awards, the Nation's Report Card for urban school systems with top honors among 18 city systems for 4th grade math, 2nd place among 8th graders. An estimated 144,000 students are taught in 164 separate elementary, middle, and high schools. Elementary-Middle schools also include the independent Charlotte Preparatory School, with learning based on Montessori education principles.
Charlotte is home to a number of universities and colleges such as Central Piedmont Community College, Johnson C. Smith University, Johnson & Wales University, Queens University of Charlotte, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Several notable colleges are located in the metropolitan suburbs. Located in Davidson, North Carolina, Davidson College is ranked in the top ten nationally among liberal arts colleges, according to U.S. News & World Report. Additional colleges in the area include Belmont Abbey College in the suburb of Belmont, North Carolina, and Wingate University in the suburb of Wingate, North Carolina. Also nearby are Winthrop University, Clinton Junior College, and York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
UNC Charlotte is the city's largest university. It is located in University City, the northeastern portion of Charlotte, which is also home to University Research Park, a 3,200 acres (13 km2) research and corporate park. With more than 28,000 students, UNC Charlotte is the third largest university in the state system.
Central Piedmont Community College is the largest community college in the Carolinas, with more than 70,000 students each year and 6 campuses throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region. CPCC is part of the statewide North Carolina Community College System.
The Charlotte School of Law opened its doors in Charlotte in 2006 and was fully accredited by the American Bar Association in 2011. The law school offers the Juris Doctor degree and has affiliated programming with UNC Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University. Charlotte School of Law is the largest law school in the Carolinas.
Pfeiffer University has a satellite campus in Charlotte. Wake Forest University, with its main campus in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, also operates a satellite campus of its Babcock Graduate School of Management in the Uptown area. The Connecticut School of Broadcasting, DeVry University, and ECPI University all have branches in Charlotte. The Universal Technical Institute has the NASCAR Technical Institute in nearby Mooresville, serving the Charlotte area. Montreat College (Charlotte) maintains a School of Professional and Adult Studies in the city.
The North Carolina Research Campus, a 350-acre biotechnology hub located northeast of Charlotte in the city of Kannapolis, is a public-private venture including eight universities, one community college, the David H. Murdock Research Institute (DHMRI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and corporate entities that collaborate to advance the fields of human health, nutrition and agriculture. Partnering educational organizations include UNC Charlotte and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, from the Charlotte region, as well as Appalachian State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University and North Carolina State University. The research campus is part of a larger effort by leaders in the Charlotte area to attract energy, health, and other knowledge-based industries that contribute to North Carolina's strength in biotechnology.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library serves the Charlotte area with a large collection (more than 1.5 million) of books, CDs and DVDs at 15 locations in the city of Charlotte, with branches in the surrounding towns of Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson. All locations provide free access to Internet-enabled computers and WiFi, and a library card from one location is accepted at all 20 locations.
Although the library's roots go back to the Charlotte Literary and Library Association, founded on January 16, 1891, the state-chartered Carnegie Library, which opened on the current North Tryon site of the Main Library, was the first non-subscription library opened to members of the public in the city of Charlotte. The philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $25,000 dollars for a library building, on the condition that the city of Charlotte donate a site and $2,500 per year for books and salaries, and that the state grant a charter for the library. All conditions were met, and the Charlotte Carnegie Library opened in an imposing classical building on July 2, 1903.
The 1903 state charter also required that a library be opened for the disenfranchised African-American population of Charlotte. This was completed in 1905 with the opening of the Brevard Street Library for Negroes, an independent library in Brooklyn, a historically black area of Charlotte, on the corner of Brevard and East Second Streets (now Martin Luther King Boulevard). The Brevard Street Library was the first library for African Americans in the state of North Carolina, and some sources say in the southeast. The library was closed in 1961 when the Brooklyn neighborhood in Second Ward was redeveloped, but its role as a cultural center for African-Americans in Charlotte is continued by the Beatties Ford and West Boulevard branches of the library system, as well as by Charlotte's African-American Cultural Center.
Charlotte has a municipal waste system consisting of trash pickup, water distribution, and waste treatment. There are five waste water treatment plants operated by Charlotte Water (previously Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department). Charlotte has a biosolids program. Some Chester residents spoke out against the program on February 26, 2013. Charlotte's sludge is handled, transported, and spread on farm fields in Chester by a company called Synagro, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Carlyle Group Charlotte's sludge is of the "CLASS B" variety, which means it still contains detectable levels of pathogens.
The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) is the agency responsible for operating mass transit in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. CATS operates light rail transit, historical trolleys, express shuttles, and bus services serving Charlotte and its immediate suburbs. The LYNX light rail system comprises a 9.6‑mile line north–south line known as the Blue Line, which saw 2025 ridership projections (18,500) exceeded after its first year of service. Bus ridership continues to grow (66% since 1998). The 2030 Transit Corridor System Plan looks to supplement established bus service with light rail and commuter rail lines as a part of the LYNX system.
In 2011, the city of Charlotte and CATS staff conducted public forums to present the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and gather public input from residents, property owners, and business owners located in northeast Charlotte, which is where the LYNX light rail is proposed to be extended from uptown Charlotte to UNC‑Charlotte campus. Construction on this portion is expected to end in August 2017.
A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Charlotte the 49th most walkable of the 50 largest cities in the United States.
Charlotte's central location between the population centers of the northeast and southeast has made it a transportation focal point and primary distribution center, with two major interstate highways, I-85 and I-77, intersecting near the city's center. The latter highway also connects to the population centers of the Rust Belt.
Charlotte's beltway, designated I-485 and simply called "485" by local residents, has been under construction for over 20 years, but funding problems have slowed its progress. The final segment was finished in mid-2015. Upon completion, 485 will have a total circumference of approximately 67 miles (108 km). Within the city, the I-277 loop freeway encircles Charlotte's uptown (usually referred to by its two separate sections, the John Belk Freeway and the Brookshire Freeway) while Charlotte Route 4 links major roads in a loop between I-277 and I-485. Independence Freeway, which carries U.S. 74 and links downtown with the Matthews area, is undergoing an expansion and widening in the eastern part of the city.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport is the sixth busiest airport in both the U.S. and the world overall as measured by traffic (aircraft movements). It is served by many domestic and international airlines including Air Canada and Lufthansa. It is a major hub for American Airlines, having historically been a hub for its predecessors US Airways and Piedmont Airlines. Nonstop flights are available to many destinations across the United States, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, and South America.
Charlotte is served daily by three Amtrak routes:The Crescent connects Charlotte with New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C.; Charlottesville, and Greensboro to the north, and Greenville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Meridian and New Orleans to the south.
The Carolinian connects Charlotte with New York; Philadelphia; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Richmond; Raleigh; Durham; and Greensboro.
The Piedmont connects Charlotte with Raleigh, Durham, and Greensboro.
Charlotte is also served by both Greyhound and low-cost curbside carrier Megabus.
The city is planning a new centralized multimodal train station called the Gateway Station. It is expected to house the future LYNX Purple Line, the new Greyhound bus station, and the Crescent line that passes through Uptown Charlotte.
Sister Cities International has designated nine sister cities of Charlotte: