Mount Holly has High Hopes for Growth — and they're just getting started
Located in eastern Gaston County, Mount Holly is a quaint, vibrant city situated just west of the Catawba River and Charlotte. With its rich roots in North Carolina’s textile industry, Mount Holly has maintained its hometown feel as new businesses move in, parks are slated for big improvements, and the city places emphasis on growing the community garden and farmer’s market in the heart of downtown. In the past few years, the city’s commercial and residential growth is pushing this intimate city to the forefront—highlighting both its charm and accessibility.
Over the Christmas season, the space occupied by the Mount Holly Farmer’s Market was creatively transformed into a Christmas tree farm, with weekends featuring local vendors for Mount Holly and The Makers’ pop-up event geared towards Christmas shopping and outdoor distancing, highlighting makers from Mount Holly and the surrounding area. This sort of innovative commerce has been the guiding light for Mount Holly, steering their growth and direction as Mount Holly sees an influx of new residents and interest in business expansion.
With a detailed and targeted implementation of the strategic plan headed up by Mount Holly’s Planning and Development Director, Greg Beal, Mount Holly is gearing up for expansion of a variety of projects. These plans include greenway connectivity of the various Carolina Thread Trail locations, with goals of accessibility for differently abled individuals and educational programs, including a proposed Educational Forest with partners like Duke Energy and the North Carolina Forest Service.
There is a focus on public art, adding to the outdoor art scene like the mural at Mount Holly's community garden, as well as further partnership with local arts entities like Arts on the Greenway. Downtown is a mixture of long-standing establishments, new businesses and business expansions and, with the targeted plan going into effect, Mount Holly has more positive growth is on the horizon.
A Growing City With a Competitive Housing Market
A 2019 Charlotte Agenda article rated Mount Holly 4th Charlotte’s 23 fastest-growing suburbs, with neighboring Belmont being close by at number five. In 2009, Mount Holly’s population topped at just over 10,000, a number slightly higher than the national average of 6,200 for small towns. Since then, with most recent accurate data represented from 2020, Mount Holly has grown to a population of 16,843, making it 59th of North Carolina’s over 500 incorporated municipalities.
Ashley Mason and her family moved to Mount Holly in 2015 after having lived in Charlotte in the years prior. They were brought to the area because of the competitive housing prices and school options, something Mason says was hard to balance in Charlotte. “The school options were not as good in Charlotte,” Mason says, “especially in the areas in which we could afford to live.”
Housing prices in Mount Holly— the average being $226K versus neighboring Charlotte’s $295K— draw in residents, with many homes teetering below the $200K price point. Along with the home-price draw, Mason says she has been pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of neighbors. “They actually want to get to know me,” Mason says, something that was not always present in her past neighborhoods, allowing for a sense of community leading to long term residents and community members.
Carolina Thread Trail Ties Visitors to Nature and Local Business
Mason and her family have also enjoyed the Carolina Thread Trail's greenway access throughout the city— and they are not alone. “More people are coming to Mount Holly to walk along our greenway,” Beal says. With urban trails, like the Mount Holly Linear Park Trail, and riverfront trails, like Catawba Riverfront Greenway—located in Tuckaseegee Park which is home to one of four Gaston County skateparks— there is no shortage of outdoor experiences for visitors and residents alike.
Mount Holly’s Wood and Water District, an area of conserved land alongside the Catawba River and Mountain Island Lake that includes the Mountain Island Park Trail and boat ramps, as well as playgrounds and picnic tables, is a huge draw for the area. There is a continued effort to spruce up these spaces for accessibility and the expansion of mountain bike trails, something Beal says is important to the holistic approach of city development.
“As the city continues to work on Carolina Thread Trail extensions such as Dutchman’s Creek,” Beal says, “the balancing the beauty of nature along with the accessibility of greenways attracts visitors and residents who then patronize downtown restaurants and shops,” holding true to the city slogan of “connecting community and nature.”
A Downtown Resurgence
Beal believes Mount Holly is poised to continue its growth streak as they see increased interest in retail space. “We have been busier than ever with meeting requests with developers,” Beal says. City developers are taking this opportunity to be strategic, targeting their growth by looking for vendors like breweries, restaurants with outdoor dining options and retailers who offer something unique to the downtown landscape— and their efforts are working.
Jack Beagles, with locations in Charlotte’s NoDa and West End neighborhoods, opened their most recent location in Mount Holly in a building shared with On Track Yoga and the Vintage Nest in 2018. The Summit Beer Shop entered the scene the same year, with 28 taps featuring local and national selections (four of which are wine), with a retail section of wine, beer and cider, adding to the pre-existing dining and beverage options of Vasiello’s Italian Kitchen and South Main Kitchen & Tavern.
Kendle Starcher, owner of Catalyst Mercantile and the brains behind Mount Holly & The Makers, has witnessed the growth and revitalization of downtown Mount Holly first-hand while working to make her storefront, which showcases local products from small business owners, a success. “Downtown is so charming and I think people will continue to fall in love with it like we have. It’s nice to have such a gem in your backyard,” Starcher says.
Other storefronts like Mount Hollywood Vintage, owned by former restaurateurs Dave and Dana Rhames, bring an air of creativity and style that compliments the handmade culture of Catalyst Mercantile and Create in Us, which hosts DIY classes while having a storefront fueled by locally crafted items.
Mason says that as the city grows, so does the arts and culture scene, something Beal and his team are intent on expounding upon as they partner with Arts on the Greenway and other arts efforts. Awaken Gallery has been a valuable proponent of both sustainable and innovative approaches as COVID shifts the way parades, gallery visits and other art initiatives once looked.
A huge draw to the city each fall, Awaken Gallery’s Lantern Parade features artists from across the nation showcasing their light-up creations as they walk the streets at night. Viewers typically watch from the sidelines, sipping warm beverages from Catawba Coffee Co. and other vendors, as they are wowed by the intricate creations passing by. 2020 saw the parade in reverse, as patrons instead drove by stationary displays of lights and artistry.
Plans For Expanding Veteran’s Park Means More Community Connection
Just outside of downtown (and on the way to cult favorite BrightStar Grill) is Veteran’s Park and, like so much of Mount Holly, Beal’s got big plans. The city is looking to revitalize Veteran’s Park, a park which currently boasts a playground, green space and picnic shelter just a block off Main Street from the farmer’s market.
It became clear, through community feedback and a Downtown Park Feasibility Study conducted by Kimley Horn & Associates, that both city officials and residents were in favor of the addition of a splash pad. As they work towards the expansion of Veteran’s Park, the plan is to utilize bond referendums for funding, something with which nearby Cherryville saw success when looking to revitalize their downtown and something that historically has been favored as seen with the 2003 improvement bonds that funded the Linear Park Trail Project.
The goal of the Veterans Park Expansion Plan is to better connect families with downtown, making Mount Holly a regional attraction, with the hope of future investments to ensure they continues on their current trajectory of dynamic growth and inclusion.
Balancing an appreciation for the abounding nature and gardens, a draw for local business and the ability to maintain a community feel despite the close proximity to North Carolina’s largest city has ensured Mount Holly’s desirability. This has been seen not only in the population explosion but the excitement of new residents and those in the business sector to be a part of this exciting community.
Mount Holly has high hopes as they strategically implement their well-thought-out, forward thinking trajectory and from the looks of things, they’re well on their way to seeing these ideas and more come to fruition. So if you’re hoping to get in on the action, act fast— this isn’t an opportunity to sleep on.