Gastonia and surrounding Gaston County are pictures of well-planned expansion. From the tree-lined streets of Belmont to the renovations in downtown Gastonia and the ready-for-business industrial parks around the area, residential and commercial growth is the order of the day throughout the county, as Charlotte’s metro area expands ever outward.Gastonia's Downtown RenovationHistoric downtown Gastonia is getting a face-lift. A downtown renovation is attracting new businesses, restaurants and shops. Recreational opportunities, such as a new disc golf course and the proximity of Crowders Mountain are attracting a variety of visitors – and many are liking what they see enough to move to Gastonia. The city has invested $6.3 million in renovating the 1911 Gaston County Courthouse, which now houses the James B. Garland Municipal Business Center, a one-stop government service facility. And Gastonia’s downtown area is attracting consumers from outside the city for a more laid-back shopping experience, says Rachel Bagley, director of communications and marketing for the city of Gastonia. Mount HollyVariety is certainly the watchword in Mount Holly, the county’s second-largest city. Major developments such as the U.S. Whitewater Center on the Catawba River and the I-485 interchange have spurred much downtown development, including a new city hall and center, and there’s plenty more to come, says Edna Chirico, economic development chair of the Mount Holly Community Development Foundation. “It’s a wonderful time to be in east Gaston, and Gaston County as a whole,” Chirico says. “Everyone is well positioned to see a lot of positive things throughout the county. We’re seeing quality growth in the service sector, from medical offices to retail shopping, and our residential growth is taking off as well.”While Mount Holly is benefiting from Charlotte’s sprawl, she echoes Nye’s sentiment that the city is much more than a bedroom community.
“We have a great quality of life here,” she says. “We have local police and fire departments here and in these other small towns, and good schools. We’re going to have challenges as we grow, but we are going to be partnering with other people to handle things like water, sewer and utilities long before they become problems. If we plan ahead, we won’t get surprised.” BelmontThat’s the plan on the ground in nearby Belmont as well, which – like Mount Holly – is issuing thousands of new-home permits and revamping itself to take advantage of the influx of new people and business. “The wave is cresting in eastern Gaston right now,” says Mayor Richard Boyce, who took office in late 2005. “We value the kind of small-town community we’ve been so long. But, if properly handled, this growth offers us tremendous opportunities.”