Is Charlotte the southern Big Apple?

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Courtesy of Temily Wardlaw
From left, Tabitha Corley, Kayla Brooks, Temily Wardlaw, Andreia Wardlaw

Three years ago, on my 23rd birthday, I packed up my 2000 Honda Accord and made the two hour drive from my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, to the city of my dreams: Charlotte, North Carolina.  

I already had a new job, keys to my first apartment in a luxury building and few best friends. I was ready to conquer rooftop bars and boozy Sunday brunches. That day, everything I had ever wished for in college was coming true. 

Millennials are coming here—and staying

That year, 2016, I was one of 26,390 millennials who moved to Charlotte in search of career success, a better cost of living and quality of life. Since then, the number of 20-34 year-olds migrating to the Queen City has remained steady, and the number of millennials staying in the city year after year has started to increase. 

And now, according SmartAsset’s third annual study on where millennials are moving, North Carolina is the fifth ranking state. Charlotte has taken the number six spot on the list of top 10 cities attracting new millennials. 

In 2017, then-24-year-old Tabitha Corley and 22,496 other millennials also packed their bags in hopes that the city would provide a better quality of life. 

“I’m a true millennial and lived at home to save money, and I’m so glad I did. Since it was going to be my first time moving out and living on my own, moving to Charlotte made sense. I was already familiar with the city since I graduated from Winthrop University,” said Corley, now 26. 

Courtesy of Tabitha Corley
Tabitha Corley

She had a job offer at a top news station she felt she could not refuse. The digital producer said she knew that a larger-market station would advance her career in ways not possible in her hometown of Wagener, South Carolina. 

“Here, my career is amazing and my side hustles are thriving,” she said. 

[Related: How Charlotteans make their side hustles work for them]

In addition to her full-time role as a media professional, Corley works as a freelance photographer and video journalist. But it’s not only her career that has Corley in love with Charlotte, it’s the city’s quality of life. 

‘The city feels so small, yet so big’

“Comparing Charlotte to Wagener would be comparing apples to oranges. I like how the city feels so small, yet so big once you consider all of the neighborhoods like South End, Plaza Midwood, University City. Here, there’s something to do year-round,” she said. 

With plans of staying in Charlotte for no longer than two or three years, Corley is among the many millennials that find themselves staying in the city longer than expected. Charlotte is not only attracting millennials, it is keeping them.

To compare, New York City ranked at the bottom of the study’s list: Around 69,200 young professionals moved into the city, but in the same year, more than 95,000 millennials left. However, Charlotte saw a net increase of 5,060 millennials, with only 17,436 of the 22,496 leaving. 

“The city’s growth is a bit frustrating. All of this construction gets in the way of my daily commute,” Corley said. “But it’s a good sign, I guess. Bigger and better things are coming.” 

13 COMMENTS

    • I dont mind the influx, just stop saying your former Northeast or Midwest city was better. If it so much better then move back and pay those outrages taxes for poor roads and tons of snow.

      • You can stay…just leave your Northeastern morals, values and taxes back where they came from! I moved to get away from all that garbage!

  1. We’re two millennials that came here, but we’re definitely not staying. After a year of being in Charlotte we found our careers worse off and its super boring, not comparable to big cities at all. Charlotte definitely caters to the night life people, but if you’re past that point and still considered a millennial it’s not for you. restaurants are not as good as bigger cities and nighttime at uptown is questionable. Most cities we stayed after work for great food and cocktails, but we prefer to get out of the area and cook at home here. Sorry Charlotte, you just don’t cut it.

  2. Um….NO how is it? The only place for coffee after 12midnight is amelies of waffle house? No true night life here that is inclusive for all demographics. Charlotte DOES not promote the arts here consistently. There is no true “Arts part if town..lol NODA..please its know for food and drinks rather than true arts district. ..charlotte is a white washed atlanta at most.

  3. I have lived here since 1997. Settled first near Arboretum, then moved to Pineville, now Myers Park. Moving to MP was the best decision. I love Charlotte. If I move again, it would be to the Low Country beaches. Charlotte is accessible to the mountains and the beach. The Queen City is beautiful through every season. Sometimes it even snows. Things Uptown have changed immensely of which I am not a fan. I used to feel safe and enjoy just meandering up and down center city. Parked on the street. Now its impossible to feel safe Uptown on one’s own. Traffic sucks , parking costs an arm and a leg, prices for simple snack and drinks are $50 if more. There is so much construction everywhere there is no end in sight. So no more Uptown for me. I will stay in my neighborhood nook and enjoy the beauty of the Greenways, the gorgeous old homes, the history and if I need to drive anywhere, I can park on the street.

  4. First things first: the headline has nothing to do with the body of the article.

    That being said, the answer to the headline’s question is a flat no. Charlotte is a medium-sized city that keeps trying to prove it’s a big city. There’s no doubt that it is growing and will continue to do so, but it’s not in the same league as New York. It’s about on par with Orlando, Austin, and Tampa. When you consider size, diversity, things to do, and economic impact, Atlanta is really the South’s strongest comp to New York. And they’re still very different from one another.

    However, as evidenced in the actual article, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a good life for yourself in Charlotte. It’s the right size for a lot of people, and it’s a good place to do business and build a career. But let’s not kid ourselves about what it is. I never understood why we did – why not just embrace the city for what it is and get away from the constant comparisons to other places?

  5. It’s disappointing that CharlotteFive allowed the “Click Bate” title for the article. It’s an absurd comparison. As a caucasian woman in her 40’s who grew up in Manhattan and lived in LA for twenty years, Charlotte is segregated and you will be hard-pressed to find true multiculturalism in a restaurant or venue or concert.

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