Independence Boulevard has a history of being the first urban highway in Charlotte, North Carolina. The highway consist of the I-485 (The Outerbelt), Interstates 85 and 77, and the Belk and Brookshire Freeways (I-277). The planning of the highway in the 1940's gave the city of Charlotte the boost that it needed to start transforming from a small town into an urban city. The former mayor at the time, Ben Douglas, pushed for the construction of Independence Boulevard and in 1946 secured the funding needed to start building the highway. The highway did not reach full completion until the mid 1950's.
The history of Independence Boulevard can be seen in much of its infrastructure. Facilities and stores built in the 1950's stand on each side of the highway, many are in need of restoration or have become completely vacant. Over the last decade, Independence Boulevard has seen an emergence of car dealerships, small strip mall areas, and fast food restaurant chains. Large retailers have moved away from the boulevard and left behind struggling businesses. Residents are hoping for a revitalization of the boulevard that was once buzzing with vibrant activity. For now, the road is definitely not a tourist attraction and visitors to the city have no other reason to head to the boulevard unless they are planning a visit to a specialty store or restaurant along the street. Independence is not walkable or scenic which keeps it off the list of Charlotte's top attractions.
Many of the struggling owners that are holding tightly onto their business can remember the days when the boulevard was filled with businesses and shoppers. The once booming Coliseum Center situated right off Independence feels like a ghost town with boarded stores and vacant parking lots. Many business owners on Independence Boulevard feel the economy of the road took a turn for the worst in 2002 when construction on the boulevard turned the street into a highway and took away its reputation as a boulevard for shopping. The City of Charlotte defends its plans to turn Independence Boulevard into a freeway and promises that the end result will be economic stability and growth of the neighborhoods that are situated off of Independence. Not all businesses are going downhill because of the construction that has overtaken the famous boulevard.
Over the last few decades changes have transformed the structure of Independence Boulevard and the role it plays in the organization of Charlotte. Pieces of the streets have been renamed after the intersecting avenue and area. For example, in 2007, the southern portion of Independence Boulevard was renamed Charlottetowne Avenue.
Independence Boulevard in Charlotte still stands as one of the main roads in Charlotte and residents in the Southeast use the road in order to make their way into downtown. Because of the heavy use of the road, traffic and congestion are problems yet to be solved by the city's highway commission. The boulevard serves as one of the main arteries into the city - for many drivers, Independence is the first street they see when they come into Charlotte.
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