Forty years ago, Charlotte was a city on the cusp of a boom.
The year 1978 was key for the city.
Voters passed “liquor by the drink,” allowing bars and restaurants to serve hard alcohol and cocktails. IBM was building its campus near UNC Charlotte, with plans to relocate 1,000 workers and their families from upstate New York. And Piedmont Airlines was starting to grow Charlotte’s airport into an important hub for travelers.
But the city still had a long way to go.
The population was barely over 300,000, less than half of its present level. Light rail and the major skyline downtown (later to become uptown) were decades away. Huge stretches of undeveloped farmland and woods stretched around the city, in places that would one day become Ballantyne, the neighborhoods of SouthPark and subdivisions around Lake Norman.
A new tool from Mecklenburg County allows users to toggle between satellite imagery from 1978 and 2018 (as well as other years in between). You can check it out at http://timemachine.mcmap.org/.
The tool gives you a sense of how the city’s breakneck growth has altered the landscape, and the sheer pace at which new developments have gobbled up tracts of land. Here’s a look at key locations around Charlotte and how they’ve changed in the past 40 years: