This small town is known best as a shopping hub. Home to Carolina Place Mall, major big-box retailers and dozens of other shops, it has 6 million square feet of retail space- or about 1,000 square feet for each of the town’s roughly 6,500 residents. Longtime Pineville residents also point out their links to history. Antique shops fill the brick storefronts that make up the town’s original business district.
The Charlotte homes of Pineville rest in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina which is located between Charlotte and York County, South Carolina. It is perhaps most famous as the birthplace of James K. Polk, the 11th U.S. president.
Pineville was changed forever when the initial segment of Interstate 485 opened to traffic -- a one mile stretch connecting interchanges at NC Highway 51 and South Boulevard. Although it was designed to divert through traffic around Charlotte via a freeway loop, I-485 incidentally passed directly through tiny Pineville.
In the years to follow, largely undeveloped land adjacent to Pineville's two I-485 interchanges exploded into what is presently the largest shopping district in North Carolina. With nearly 8,000,000 square feet (743,000 m2) of retail space, Pineville is home to the 1.1 million square foot Carolina Place Mall, at least two power centres and many strip malls, outparcels and free standing retailers.
The situation in Pineville can be considered a textbook example of urban sprawl. Because it was largely motivated by the introduction of a freeway to the area, the Pineville shopping district generally requires a motor vehicle for access. Despite 8,000,000 square feet (743,000 m2) of new retail space, the population of Pineville today, slightly less than 4,000, is barely greater than it was in 1990. This is partly a consequence of Pineville's geographic location. Sandwiched between Charlotte and the South Carolina state line, Pineville cannot expand its municipal boundaries. However, substantial undeveloped land was available prior to the introduction of I-485. Yet it was rapidly purchased by developers and approved for retail uses nearly without exception, quickly sealing Pineville's fate as a place that is known to many but home to few.