MATTHEWS – It’s projects like the new North End District mixed-use and walk-able community that Matthews’ officials hope to see more of in the town’s future.
Development has been strong for the town over the past 10 to 15 years, revitalizing an old community with little commercial property but a knack for agriculture into what is now a thriving and growing community with a healthy balance of residential and commercial properties. The town’s downtown core, which used to consist of a small stretch of Trade Street between John Street and Matthews-Mint Hill Road, has grown, encompassing more of Trade Street, and now hugs a wider stretch.
But the town’s 17 square miles are set. There’s no more annexing and available properties for development are limited, so how does the town continue to grow?
“I think the biggest thing is this is a free market kind of world,” Jamie Justice, assistant town manager, said. “Our boundaries are set, so we are really looking within. There really isn’t a whole lot of room for large-scale development, so that helps us refocus on downtown and sometimes focus on redevelopment, as well.”
Justice said a recent study showed Matthews is about 65 percent residential and 35 percent commercial, which is healthy for the town’s size, he said, and are numbers town leaders are working to maintain. The town keeps track of vacant storefronts on their website to help new business owners and startups find space in Matthews easily.
Justice said it’s pretty common for spaces to fill up quick, and they’ve recently seen some unique businesses apply for permits and come into the area, like a new cigar shop, creperie and businesses like Carolina Beer Temple.
“We have some cool uses coming in and we have great restaurants that are coming in,” Justice added.
Annette Privette-Keller, the town’s communication director, said some recent changes in the town, like branding initiatives and signage, have helped attract more residents and businesses, as well as created “a town that has a lot of charm,” she said. Red flowers and banners lining downtown’s streets, and the establishment of the Matthews Cultural Arts District, which includes the community center and the McDowell Arts Center, has brought more consistency to a town that has always had potential, she said.
“It’s important to name these spaces, like the Fullwood Theatre, so people will come back. Matthews needs an identity and an image,” Privette-Keller said.
And the charm helps boost the town’s walkability, she added. People want to feel a connection to the town and enjoy living in an area where they can eat, work and play.
That’s why developments like Matthews Station and the North End District, between Trade Street and Matthews-Mint Hill Road entering Matthews from Independence Boulevard, have been so successful. The development, which sits across the street from the CMC-Matthews Medical Plaza, includes the Lofts of North End, restaurants, doctor’s offices, a fitness gym and even an urgent care facility.
“People are working on the hospital and then eating and living at the North End District. It’s kind of taken the downtown vision and building the next block of it to the next level,” Privette-Keller said.
And with projects with the Façade Grant program, town leaders hope they continue to see improvements. Business owners can apply for the grant, describing renovations and improvements they would like to see made to their businesses, and then work with Matthews Board of Commissioners to get the funding. Planet Ballroom recently completed work funded by a town façade grant and Café 157 was approved just last month for a grant.
“We’re excited to see more motivation for business owners from those grants,” Justice said.
More economic boost is in store for the town, with the opening of the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex at Matthews later this month and new sidewalks and road improvements helping move town forward.
The mayor and commissioners have worked really hard to continue to improve the town, Privette-Keller said. “They didn’t want Matthews to become strip mall after strip mall with lots of pavement. We don’t want vacant parcels and storefronts,” she added. “We want businesses that will come here and stay.”