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As Charlotte grows, here are the four biggest questions about the city's development

Ely Portillo, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Business News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte's growth spurt shows no signs of stopping, but there are still plenty of questions about how the city will develop over the next decade.

If there's a single, overarching narrative of Charlotte, it's the city's quest to grow and reach for the next big thing -- a major airline hub, an NBA team, an NFL team, the Democratic National Convention, the Republican National Convention. Roughly 17,000 new residents are coming to Charlotte each year.

And with the influx of new residents and businesses comes pressure to build billions of dollars worth of new roads and transit, fights over density in established neighborhoods and the dreaded specter of more traffic. Prices are shooting up as the supply of homes for sale keeps plummeting, making it harder and harder for prospective owners to buy into the market.

Developers are still building thousands of new apartments, giving Charlotte the dubious title of fastest-growing apartment market in the U.S.

Here are four of the biggest questions facing Charlotte as the city keeps getting bigger:

--How long will the apartment boom last?

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Since the Great Recession ended, Charlotte's apartment market has exploded, with new luxury buildings popping up across the city. Developers have added about 42,000 units to the region in the past eight years, for 31 percent growth, the fastest rate in the U.S., according to an analysis by RealPage. And though developers and renters have been wondering for years when rents might start coming down, so far, that hasn't happened.

The average rent in Charlotte, $1,142 a month, is $300 a month higher than it was five years ago, according to Charlotte-based apartment-tracking firm Real Data. And there are still roughly 27,000 more apartments either under construction or planned.

There are a few warning signs that building apartments is getting tougher.

A planned luxury apartment development at Seventh Street and Caswell Road in Elizabeth has been put on hold because of rising construction costs, and in places like uptown that have seen the most new apartments, vacancy rates are higher than the city's average.

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