The Charlotte suburb power rankings

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The Charlotte region is booming just about everywhere — but after a decade of rapid growth in and around Uptown, the pendulum might be swinging.

The Charlotte suburbs are growing in popularity. Seeking quality school districts, more reasonable home prices and small-town living, newcomers are heading to the outskirts of the region in droves.

Mecklenburg County alone is home to six suburban towns ringing the city of Charlotte. Then Gaston County to the west, Iredell County to the north, Cabarrus County to the northeast, Union County to the southeast, and York County, South Carolina, to the south all have towns in easy commuting distance to the city.

They all have their merits but are in varying stages of development. The ratings below are based on a proprietary blend of desirability, development, political clout, coolness and amenities.

This story was published in October 2017 and updated in September 2018. Know something that should be added? Email hi@charlotteagenda.com.

1) Huntersville

County: Mecklenburg
Population: 54,839
Distance from Uptown: 15 miles north
Average commute: 27 minutes
Median income: $90,253
Median home price: $250,300

Huntersville is the LeBron James of suburbs — perhaps past its peak and with competitors fast approaching, but still the greatest. Some suburbs may be quainter and more idyllic, but Huntersville is still the power center for suburban Charlotte. It’s the suburb that all other suburbs are judged by.

The town expertly blends proximity to central Charlotte and bang-for-your-buck in housing with urban amenities that even suburbanites are coming to expect. Birkdale Village is a retail destination and Discovery Place KIDS is a gem for families. Lake Norman Charter is the most popular charter school in the region and the Huntersville NO RULES Online Yard Sale group on Facebook has more than 44,000 members.

[Agenda story: Birkdale Village still sets the standard in Charlotte development]


2) Fort Mill

County: York County, South Carolina
Population: 15,029
Distance from Uptown: 19 miles south
Average commute: 25 minutes
Median income: $61,773
Median home price: $192,500

With the rapid boom in housing developments ringing a lovely downtown area, it’s not a stretch to say Fort Mill could claim the top spot in a year or two.

The beautiful campuses of Movement Mortgage and Red Ventures in nearby Indian Land give it some corporate clout. Baxter Village is a dandy little hangout spot, and the schools are top notch.

[Agenda story: Why a Saturday afternoon in Fort Mill is a good idea]


3) Matthews

County: Mecklenburg
Population: 31,495
Distance from Uptown: 12 miles southeast
Average commute: 27 minutes
Median income: $73,137
Median home price: $216,500

Matthews has gotten downright cool. Carolina Beer Temple, Temple Mojo, Seaboard, Jekyll and Hyde and Stumptown Station (to name a few) provide destinations drawing people downtown. Their Food Truck Friday has become a regular draw. Plus there’s still all the family-friendly activities in Stumptown Park. Matthews is definitely on the rise.

Now if the town could just figure out how to get people living on Main Street.

[Agenda story: Downtown Matthews is becoming a destination]


4) Davidson

County: Mecklenburg
Population: 12,452
Distance from Uptown: 22 miles north
Average commute: 23 minutes
Median income: $105,083
Median home price: $381,200

davidson- summit coffee

Summit Coffee’s line can be out the door check out their freshly baked scones and smoothies.

Davidson is perhaps the quintessential suburban town, home to a beautiful college campus and arguably the region’s best restaurant in Kindred. It’s also the most affluent Charlotte suburb by household income and home prices.

This town traditionally tops the rankings of best suburbs, and No. 4 does feel low. But the brutally congested I-77 and it’s pricey future toll lanes make it a little less attractive, and the town is beginning to have a bit of an identity crisis around how to manage its future growth.

[View our travel guide to Davidson]


5) Belmont

County: Gaston
Population: 10,784
Distance from Uptown: 12 miles west
Average commute: 23 minutes
Median income: $48,077
Median home price: $149,600

belmont-downtown-and-homes-for-sale

Belmont is one of the closest suburbs physically, though the Catawba River still feels like a psychological barrier. Real estate is still cheap and plentiful over the border in Gaston County, and its riverfront is starting to become more popular. If you like quaint, Belmont is your place. Plus it’s home to the area’s first distillery — Muddy River.

If the River District in Charlotte can draw a big-name corporate tenant (Amazon, anyone?), the center of power could shift westward.

[Travel guide: 20 things to see, do and eat in Belmont, 15 miles west of Charlotte]


6) Waxhaw

County: Union
Population: 14,194
Distance from Uptown: 23 miles south
Average commute: 32 minutes
Median income$84,294
Median home price: $259,500

downtown-waxhaw

They’ve recently opened up a luxury apartment community right downtown in a historic building, alongside the homemade ice cream shop and craft brewery. The massive MillBridge community is a suburban homeowner wonderland.

This ranking also feels low. But that commute is a killer.

[Agenda story: Union County’s gem: Waxhaw’s Main Street]


7) Cornelius

County: Mecklenburg
Population: 28,515
Distance from Uptown: 20 miles north
Average commute: 28 minutes
Median income: $80,472
Median home price$239,900

Cornelius might be the most underrated on this list. It’s already home to three breweries, and when Olde Mecklenburg Brewery opens its new taproom up there, Cornelius could skyrocket on this list.

The town also punches above its weight in the political arena (U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis lives there). Of course, the traffic situation still weighs it down.

[Agenda story: How to spend the perfect 12 hours outside in Cornelius, 20 minutes north of Charlotte]


8) Pineville

County: Mecklenburg
Population: 8,593
Distance from Uptown: 12 miles south
Average commute: 23 minutes
Median income: $35,191
Median home price: $142,200

Like Matthews, downtown Pineville has also had a resurgence in recent years. Pintville and Kit’s Trackside Crafts bring people to the town square well into the evening, and their festivals are regional draws. The town of Pineville is currently in talks with LendingTree to renovate an old abandoned mill into a residential, office and shopping district.

Pineville is on the rise.


9) Mooresville

County: Iredell
Population: 36,543
Distance from Uptown: 28 miles north
Average commute: 26 minutes
Median income: $63,792
Median home price: $190,200

hebrews coffee mooresville

In a lot of ways, Mooresville is its own thing at this point. The Lowe’s HQ gives it corporate gravitas, the racing community gives it identity and its school district, set apart from the rest of Iredell County, is a national model.

But as the farthest north of the suburbs, they’ll be hit hardest by the I-77 toll lanes and even more isolated. Can we hurry up and get that commuter rail?

[Agenda story: 13 things to see, do and eat in downtown Mooresville, 45 minutes north of Charlotte]


10) Weddington

County: Union
Population: 10,642
Distance from Uptown: 16 miles south
Average commute: 33 minutes
Median income: $135,611
Median home price: $411,900

bacon-egg-cheese-bagel-poppyseeds

Weddington real estate is upscale and incredible. There’s not a ton to do here, though it is very close to the new Waverly development.

Bonus: Weddington has a Poppyseeds Bagels. Doesn’t that BEC look amazing?


11) Rock Hill

County: York County, South Carolina
Population: 72,937
Distance from Uptown: 27 miles southwest
Average commute: 23 minutes
Median income: $40,396
Median home price: $129,200

river-walk-rock-hill

Rock Hill is known for its incredibly nice schools and tons of new development. The Riverwalk area is remarkable.

There’s also a quaint downtown, a quality children’s museum and a brewery.

[Agenda story: Time for a road trip to Rock Hill: 14 things to do 30 minutes south of Charlotte]


12) Tega Cay

County: York County, South Carolina
Population: 9,946
Distance from Uptown: 20 miles southwest
Average commute: 31 minutes
Median income: $119,250
Median home price: $296,800

tega-cay-golf-club

Getting here is tough, but lake life is so nice. Excellent golf, too.


13) Mint Hill

County: Mecklenburg
Population: 26,236
Distance from Uptown: 16 miles east
Average commute: 29 minutes
Median income: $67,477
Median home price: $207,500

mint hill town hall

Mint Hill is horse country. Look for farmland, mansions and a very nice public park.

[Agenda story: There really is a lot to do in Mint Hill (I promise)]


14) Gastonia

County: Gaston
Population: 75,536
Distance from Uptown: 22 miles west
Average commute: 23 minutes
Median income: $40,432
Median home price: $137,900

Gastonia has a nice little downtown that’s home to a must-see on your trip through the Charlotte area: Tony’s Ice Cream. The former Loray Mill has also been redeveloped into luxury loft apartments — making it one of the most ambitious redevelopment projects in the region.

[Agenda story: Gaston County’s development is poised to explode]


15) Harrisburg

County: Cabarrus
Population: 15,349
Distance from Uptown: 14 miles northeast
Average commute: 28 minutes
Median income: $82,628
Median home price: $228,400

They have a nice Fourth of July festival, and this town is a pretty good option for the University City area.


16) Concord

County: Cabarrus
Population: 89,891
Distance from Uptown: 25 miles northeast
Average commute: 26 minutes
Median income: $53,587
Median home price: $166,300

Concord definitely has its own center of gravity, and Charlotte Motor Speedway is a national draw. With Concord Mills and the aquarium, the shopping and other amenities are excellent. It’s also convenient to the booming University City area.


17) Stallings

County: Union and Mecklenburg
Population: 15,378
Distance from Uptown: 15 miles southeast
Average commute: 29 minutes
Median income: $78,891
Median home price: $215,700

Stallings is sneaky big, even though it doesn’t have much of Charlotte’s collective mindshare. Independence Boulevard is a bear, though. The eventual light rail line or other public transit on the east side could vault this town up the list.


18) Indian Trail

County: Union
Population: 38,222
Distance from Uptown: 16 miles southeast
Average commute: 30 minutes
Median income$66,589
Median home price: $171,000

There’s no real downtown area, and you can’t avoid U.S. 74. They have their own brewery now, and future mass transit will help.

Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau

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