2022 in Review: Albemarle, Locust see city changes and rise of new businesses

STANLY COUNTY — Both Albemarle and Locust underwent changes in 2022 as the two largest cities in Stanly County saw a rise in new businesses and infrastructural growth.

A new social district in downtown Albemarle made its debut in October, allowing visitors to take an alcoholic drink inside a marked cup into other permitted areas authorized by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

Following the mold set by cities like Charlotte and Kannapolis, Albemarle’s social district now allows people to buy alcoholic beverages from a business and enjoy them outside from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. The permitted area spans from the Five Points District to the east to Market Station to the west, along with North Street to the north and South Street to the south.

There are eight registered businesses initially participating in the social district: Badin Brews, The Boardroom, Glory Beans Coffee House, Armadillo Axe Throwing, Off the Square, The Tomahawk Throwing Range, Five Points Public House, and Uwharrie Brewing.

“Social districts are a hot topic in many North Carolina communities,” Joy Almond, director for the Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation and manager of Main Street, said at the Albemarle City Council meeting on June 21.

The city council voted 6-1 to approve the social district plans, with the lone nay vote coming from councilwoman Shirley Lowder.

Last May, the NC General Assembly passed House Bill 781, also known as the “Bring Business Back to Downtown” bill. Social districts were added to the bill with the intent of increasing foot traffic for businesses that have struggled since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, empowering municipalities to allow people to buy and consume alcohol within a defined area.

While Albemarle residents are seeing a higher number of dining and retail shopping options than ever, Locust residents over on the western side of Stanly County are experiencing growth too.

Just within the last year, Locust has opened the doors for a new Starbucks, Arby’s, Burger King, Jersey Mikes, The Brew Room, Buzzed Viking Brewing Company, Main Street Cup and Cone, Isla Cancun, La Casa De Los Churros, among other business newcomers to the city.

The area around the Locust Town Center is also slated for patio homes and townhome construction, with new homes in high demand.

“Our vicinity makes it comfortable for people to have access to Charlotte amenities but come home to an environment that’s more peaceful and quiet,” Cesar Correa, city administrator for the City of Locust, told SCJ. “We spend a lot of time and effort giving our police department everything it needs, and I think that’s why people feel safe coming to raise their kids here.”

As Stanly County’s closest outlet to Charlotte — a city that now ranks as the nation’s 16th largest with a 19.6 percent growth since 2010 — Locust’s location makes it a prime spot for additional growth in the future.

“It wasn’t surprising that we saw such a jump from our 2010 population because we’ve been permitting a number of housing units, and there have been a number of subdivisions that have started and finished since 2010,” Correa continued. “We’ve seen a lot of folks relocate to Locust, so we knew the numbers were going to be good.”

Albemarle and Locust will each experience more growth in 2023, with the various new residential areas currently in the development stage.