When I first came to Concord in 2003, I moved here from Charlotte. I believed Concord to be a small, county-seat town in the shadow of Charlotte. As I drove down beautiful Union Street to my new congregation, I felt as if I had traveled back several decades. I did not see what Concord had become and was becoming.
In the last two articles, I explored Concord’s past. What I find even more fascinating is our current reality and what may happen in the years to come.
I continue to be amazed at Concord’s growth and changes. While some of us still think that Concord is a small town with some growing pains, the reality is more complex. Below are some of my own personal observations.
Concord has become the tenth largest city in North Carolina. We are larger than Asheville. Within the City, more than 6,000 new housing units are at various stages of development. More people want to live here than we have homes for them.
Once built on textiles and downtown merchants, Concord’s business landscape has fundamentally changed.
Instead of 44 textile mills, Star America on Cabarrus Avenue is the City’s only remaining mill. We now encompass dozens of closed mill buildings including Brown Mill and Coleman Mill. One day private and public partnerships will redevelop some of these properties for housing and commercial uses.
Great Wolf Lodge and Embassy Suites are destination venues. Our hospital continues to expand and over 500 physicians work in our town.
Our two county school systems are excellent (although only the Cabarrus County Schools operate within our City limits) and growing (new schools keep being built). Concord also encompasses several independent schools and charter schools.
Once a marginal, small congregation, today the largest and most diverse Christian congregation in our City is St. James Roman Catholic Church. Concord has a number of historic, mainline congregations, large more contemporary congregations, new charismatic communities of faith, and a few smaller gatherings of other religious folks. About half of our citizens belong to one of our 300 organized religious communities.
Concord is home to many cultural venues including the Historic Courthouse and the Cabarrus Arts Council, the Old Courthouse Theater, and the ClearWater Arts Center and Studios. Downtown art walks and concerts are popular.
Following the lead of Cabarrus Brewing, we now have five other breweries. Social events occur at the Cabarrus Country Club, Gibson Mill, and renovated Hotel Concord. Cabarrus County is the 12th most visited county in our state.
We are increasingly a diverse community. Once, all residents of Concord were either Black or White, the majority of whom were native to our community.
The residents of the City of Concord are now 66% white, 19% African-American/Black, 12% Latino/Hispanic, 5% Asian, and Native American (numbers are rounded up). Our diversity also extends beyond race to include gender, wealth, national origin, and other identifying characteristics. Our Cabarrus County public-school students are even more diverse: 49% white, 21% Black, 19% Hispanic, and 6% Asian. There is no “typical” Concord citizen.
Instead of promoting only traditional sports such as football and baseball, our City hosts soccer games, frisbee golf, and pickleball. A new mountain bike trail is open and greenways are expanding. A wonderful new park adjacent to Cox Mill Elementary School is coming.
The median age of our residents is about 36. We are living in over 34,000 homes and apartments.
The majority of Concord’s citizens today, just like me, are not life-long citizens of our City. On our City Council, only our Mayor Bill Dusch and Councilman Brian King are life-long natives of our City. Yet, all of us are citizens together.
A major city
Concord has over 100,000 citizens within sixty-four square miles. The total property valuation within the City is over $14 billion. That is billion with a “b.”
Within the City are 360 miles of roads and many more miles of electrical, water, fiber optic, and sewer connections. The City mows 75 miles of roadsides.
Our City Water Department serves over 45,000 homes and businesses, and will be investing $60 million over the next five years to improve the system. Our City Electric Department has 33,000 meters and will be investing $50 million for upgrades. Our CKRider public transportation system serves almost 500,000 riders a year.
Around 200 police and 200 firefighters protect our citizens. Twenty-plus school resource officers work in our local schools.
Concord encompasses thirteen parks and fourteen miles of greenways, and more are being added every year. The City manages three cemeteries, 31 playing fields, and a dog park.
Last year, prior to the pandemic, Cabarrus County welcomed 1.4 million visitors who spent over 700,000 nights in our hotels. The Charlotte Motor Speedway now hosts not only NASCAR races but drag races and dirt-track racing. Our Concord-Padgett Airport is the fourth busiest in North Carolina.
The City has grown by 60% in the past twenty years, and may continue to grow by 50% over the next fifteen years.
Our largest employers now are in retail trade, schools, health care, finance, and real estate. Manufacturing and distribution centers are increasing. Around 40,000 of our citizens commute daily into Charlotte for work, while 20,000 people travel into our county for work.
Our City budget is almost $270 million dollars and has over 1,100 employees in twenty-two departments. The City owns over 1,000 vehicles and equipment from fire engines to police cars to street sweepers to motorcycles. Concord is a complex system with many moving parts.
The best place to live
Money Magazine last Fall called Concord the 24th best place to live in our nation. I believe that. And because we have such a good quality of life, more people want to claim Concord as home.
Join me each week as we discover more about our City.
To learn more, go to www.concordnc.gov and surf our wonderful renovated website.
Andy Langford is a member of the Concord City Council. He is a former pastor at Central United Methodist Church. He previously wrote a series on Cabarrus Communities of Faith for the Independent Tribune.