Once sleepy and rural, Union County - southeast of Charlotte - today is the fastest-growing county in the metro area and the 19th fastest growing county in the nation.
Union County's population, which was 70,000 in 1980, is now estimated at more than 163,000 and is expected to grow by another 33%by the time 2020 rolls around. The county has many thriving communities, including Monroe, the county seat, and an intriguing blend of past and present. It's home to highly regarded Wingate University, a private institution, and the West Campus of South Piedmont Community College in a new location on Old Charlotte Highway.
If you're a Charlotte-area newcomer looking to live in Union, chances are you're most interested in the western end of the county, along the county line close to Mecklenburg's I-485 outerbelt. Growth has been so rapid in this area that the Union County school system has opened new elementary, middle and high schools in the area. Union County real estate listings are in Area 10.
With about 8,500 residents, Weddington is primarily residential and wealthy. The "town center" is Weddington Corners shopping center. Charlotte's Siskey Family YMCA, on Weddington Road less than a mile from Union County, includes a pool and water park, jogging track and other amenities.
For both new construction and older homes, check either side off Providence Road; along Weddington-Matthews Road, Hemby Road and Beulah Church Road; and along Marvin-Weddington Road, heading for Marvin.
Most of Marvin's residents moved here for the country atmosphere and homes with acreage. But there's new construction too; look along Marvin-Weddington Road and Joe Kerr Road. From Marvin going south to Waxhaw and beyond is horse country, a great place to look for acreage if you want to keep and ride horses.
Waxhaw takes its name from the Waxhaws, the Indian tribe that once inhabited the area. The town has dozens of antiques and gift shops, plus a summer outdoor drama theatre. For new housing, look along N.C. 16 toward Charlotte, along N.C. 75 east and west of Waxhaw, and along Rehobeth Road.
Wesley Chapel, at N.C. 84 and Potter Road between Weddington and Monroe, incorporated in 1998 around a century-old community. It has a historic Methodist church site, an elementary school and lots of rolling green countryside. Look for new homes along Potter Road south of N.C. 84 and along Jim Parker Road.
Stallings abuts the Mecklenburg County line along the U.S. 74 corridor. A quiet bedroom community, the town has been growing fast, attracting residents who like its small-town image but also the quick travel time, via the outerbelt/ Independence Blvd., to Charlotte and beyond. For new homes, look on either side of Stallings along Stevens Mill Road, Potter Road, Stallings Road and Old Monroe Road toward Indian Trail.
Indian Trail, which began as an outpost along an Indian trading trail, is also growing fast. New subdivisions, a new U.S. 74 shopping center and plans for new industrial parks are speeding growth.
Look for new homes on either side of U.S. 74, around Old Monroe Road, Waxhaw-Indian Trail Road, Wesley Chapel-Stouts Road and Unionville-Indian Trail Road.
Lake Park, a subdivision off Unionville-Indian Trail Road that later incorporated, is an example of " new urbanism," or using design to help foster a feeling of community. Here you'll find townhomes and single-family homes, festivals, a shopping center and a private Christian school.
Hemby Bridge, a community that strives to retain some of its rural tradition, adjoins Mecklenburg east of U.S. 74 along Secrest Short Cut Road. It offers homes in a wide price range along Stevens Mills Road, Mill Grove Road and Indian Trail-Fairview Road.
Unionville, which also honors its rural roots, is north of Monroe on U.S. 601. For new homes, check along Lawyers Road, Sikes Mill Road, Unionville-Brief Road and N.C. 218.
County seat Monroe, formed in 1844 and named for President James Monroe, is an intriguing blend of past and present, with its lovely old restored buildings downtown and its bustling shopping strip, airport and industrial parks. It's the county's largest city, with more than 26,000 people.
You'll find affordable homes in many established parts of town. For new housing, look just inside the city along Rocky River Road, or outside it along U.S. 601 North, Secrest Short Cut Road, Sikes Mill Road, New Salem Road, Olive Branch Road, Walkup Ave., Goldmine Road, N.C. 75 toward Waxhaw and N.C. 84 toward Weddington.
One of Union County's gems is 1,050-acre Cane Creek Park in Waxhaw. The park surrounds a 350-acre trophy bass lake - one of three trophy bass lakes in North Carolina. Cane Creek also includes seven miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding, boat rentals, ball fields and playgrounds.