The town of Cornelius has evolved from a small village into a posh Charlotte suburb, where luxurious lakefront homes and condominiums line the shore and upscale retail centers appeal to the most exclusive clientele. At the same time, old Cornelius maintains its small-town charm with cozy bungalows, brick sidewalks and quaint shops along East Catawba Avenue.
Once called Liverpool, Cornelius was named after Joseph Benjamin Cornelius, the principal stockholder in the cotton mill that established the small town. Founded in 1893, Cornelius didn’t incorporate until 1905.
Similar to other North Mecklenburg suburbs, Cornelius didn’t experience significant growth until the 1990s, when its population boomed from 2,581 in 1990 to 12,000 in 2000, an increase of 365 percent. Today, 17,875 people call Cornelius home.
Most of old-town Cornelius lies to the east of I-77, while newer development is primarily near the lake along West Catawba Avenue.
One of the most exclusive developments on the lake is Crescent Resources’ The Peninsula off of Jetton Road, where homes range from the $300s to more than $2 million. The Peninsula spans 11 miles of shoreline and includes a golf course, clubhouse, yacht club and pool. The Galleon, a children’s playground and park at The Peninsula, features a boat harbor theme.
Off West Catawba Avenue, plans are under way for a mixed-use, 175-acre development of upscale subdivisions alongside Robbins Park and Nature Preserve. The design is a joint effort between private developers, the Town of Cornelius and Mecklenburg County, which own the forested land. Also near the development, Westmoreland Athletic Complex will include five ball fields and an indoor batting facility.
As West Catawba crosses I-77, it becomes East Catawba and heads into downtown Cornelius. The street is known for its small boutiques and its growing number of antique shops. Home styles in this area range from bungalows to Queen Anne and Colonial Revival.
Off East Catawba near I-77, Victoria Bay is a new development with single- family homes that sell for around $200,000. The community provides swimming, tennis, a clubhouse and walking trail along Lake Cornelius.
The rapid growth of Cornelius in the past decade has made the town increasingly prone to traffic jams, especially along West Catawba Avenue. Planned routes over the next few years are expected to reduce traffic problems in the area. Officials plan to rebuild Exit 28, the Catawba Avenue exit off I-77, and West Catawba Avenue will soon become a tree-lined boulevard with a grassy median and bike lanes.
Other forms of transportation are also easing traffic troubles. The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) already offers express routes for commuters into Charlotte. Light rail service from Uptown Charlotte to Pineville is expected for 2006. By 2010, it will extend to a transit station in Cornelius’ town center. Development in Cornelius along the rail corridor will provide a park for bicycles and walking, a mixed-use development of commercial and residential space and a large, multi-family component east of the railroad.
Antiquity is a new development near the proposed rail station east of N.C. 115. With an old-fashioned covered bridge, the neighborhood offers single and multi-family housing as well as shops and restaurants.
Cornelius offers numerous shopping opportunities. Near The Peninsula, Jetton Village features a Harris Teeter in addition to upscale restaurants and specialty shops.
Southlake Shopping Center off Torrence Chapel Road is anchored by a Harris Teeter, Eckerd Drugs and Blacklion, and unique shops and restaurants line the Shops on the Green.
Antique shops are popping up along East Catawba Avenue, including The Antiques Warehouse & Marketplace, which features imported English and European antiques, and Oak Street Mill Antique Mall, just off of East Catawba. On West Catawba, Custom Interiors offers antiques as well as furniture and interior design accessories.
Because much of Cornelius is along the lake, the town is home to some of the best parks on Lake Norman. With 106 acres, Jetton Park offers picnic sites, tennis courts, walking trails, a gazebo, sunning beach, bicycle rentals and a playground. Ramsey Creek Park supplies a boat launch, docks, a playground, picnic areas, trails and a fishing pier on its 46 acres. Both are operated by Mecklenburg County.
In the heart of old Cornelius, Legion Park is the site of a Revolutionary War encampment and a spring that provided water for the town. Off Torrence Chapel Road, the new Torrence Chapel Park includes picnic sites, ball fields, a tennis court, basketball court and walking trails.