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  • Jen McGivney

The City of Lowell: 5 Big Things that have Happened in Just Six Months

Traditionally a quieter community in Gaston County, Lowell has been finding itself in the spotlight lately. In just the past six months, Lowell has experienced several exciting developments that signal that this hidden gem of a city might not remain hidden that much longer.

“This rate of change isn’t normal for us. This growth pressure from the Charlotte metro region is indicative of a larger phenomenon – people are finding Gaston County. The doors are open, and the secret’s out,” says city manager Kevin Krouse.

With a location that’s only 15 minutes from the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, Lowell is emerging as an attractive community just beyond Charlotte. The city council is collaborating closely on ways to welcome change while retaining tradition. The idea is preserve community’s identity while welcoming others to share in the perks of life in Lowell.

Making the news in Lowell:

1. Announcing Gaston County’s Biggest Office Development Sonic Automotive announced that it will create a national customer contact center in Lowell, bringing 500 jobs in marketing and customer service with salaries averaging about $53,000 and with manager salaries reaching into six figures. Over the next five years, this center will bring $11.2 million in investments, including land, machinery, and equipment, to the city. Krouse hints that this jobs announcement is just the first of few that Lowell expects to make this year.

2. Welcoming Entrepreneurs Downtown The vacancy rate downtown is declining, thanks to places like Fryeday Coffee Roastery and Café and Maya Rita Bakes. This spring, those shops will join a downtown of small businesses with big ambitions. Downtown Lowell businesses have two big distinctions: They’re largely owned by women, and they are more collaborative than competitive. Joint events like Sip & Shop Thursdays, held on the third Thursday of each month, invite customers to stroll through the shops while enjoying their favorite beverage. Patti Bean, owner of the boutique Back of the Moon, is even helping a friend open another boutique in town. Is she worried about inviting competition? Not a bit. “What the business owners here are trying to do is to help each other and the town to become the best that it can be,” says Bean. “More is better for everyone.”

3. Creating a Bikeable and Walkable City The benefits of a bike- and pedestrian-friendly city are hard to count. Such cities create easy access between businesses and customers; they attract young residents, who prefer transportation alternatives to cars; and they create healthier lifestyles. Lowell is already a relatively compact city, and it’s working to add immediate improvements—like intersection stamping and pedestrian signals—and to research long-term plans to make it easier to get around town on bike or on foot.

4. Adding More Outdoor Recreation When Krouse moved to Lowell, he discovered a change that came with his new address: He felt healthier. Lowell’s location keeps residents hiking on the Carolina Thread Trail and kayaking on the Catawba. But a recent addition offers a new kind of outdoor fun: the Poston Pump Track. This is a bike park that gives mountain bikers of all levels a chance to practice their skills. Velosolutions—an international track designer—created this track, and it’s the only one like it on the east coast between Miami and New York City.

5. Investing in Neighborhoods

Last December, the N.C. Commerce Department awarded Lowell a grant for $750,000 in community improvements. The money will be used to renovate the community center and to repair homes for qualifying low- and moderate-income homeowners. The home repairs will include electrical repair, insulation, and weatherization improvements.

Although developments are coming to Lowell, the city seeks to retain its hometown vibe. With intentional and incremental shifts, Lowell can still be Lowell, only more so.

“Lowell is going to continue to have the same small-community feel. With more people and more businesses, however, we’ll have a wider tax base that’ll provide more services for our citizens, but the atmosphere won’t change.”

Krouse credits the recent good news to Lowell’s council, which collaborates closely and is open to new ideas to add enhancements to the city. But, he says, at its core, the city offers something that can’t be replicated by a strategic plan: a sense of community.

“What we offer here is a relaxed family environment,” Krouse says. “The schools are good; the recreation is good. You can come home to Lowell and instead of having to worry about traffic, you can get out into the water to kayak. There’s a big sense of community in Lowell, and now, we’re really being discovered.”

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