Overrated: Charlotte, NC hit by finance crunch, crime


Is Charlotte the worst city in America? Of course not, but the "Queen City" seems to have taken on a near mythical status, particularly on the East Coast, where it is portrayed as a place where home prices always go up, the job market is strong and youl have all the amenities of a major city, with none of the negatives. Riiight.

According to Forbes' Most Miserable Cities list, Charlotte (#9) has the worst ranking for violent crime of any of the cities surveyed. According to the Charlotte Observer, property crime is up 3.8 percent and violent crime is up 2.3 percent in the past year. Some citizens have even begun hiring private security to protect their neighborhoods. So that's what the HOA fees go to!

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One of the reasons crime may be on the rise is the weakening local economy. Three of the major employers (Wachovia, Bank of America and Lowe's) have been hurt by the credit crisis and housing crunch. While home prices have remained much stronger in Charlotte than other cities, that trend seems likely to change.

Like any Southern city, the summers are hot and humid, with an average temperature of 90 in July. But getting out of town is not as easy as it once was. While U.S. Airways uses Charlotte as a hub, the days of cheap flights are over. According to USA Today, a direct round trip flight from Charlotte to Fort Myers was recently as high as $809, while one-stop flights on other airlines were more than $500 less. Driving to the beach or the mountains isn't as cheap or easy as it once was, with rising gas prices, traffic and sprawl.

Finally, while the editor's at Southern Living noted Charlotte's "emerging" restaurant scene, some locals say there are too many chain eateries and the few local hot spots are overpriced or overrated.

In short, while Charlotte's housing prices may seem like a breath of fresh air to Yankees giving up on what the Northeast has to offer, this NASCAR-fueled boomtown may be headed for a wreck in the near future.