Boomtowns: Chapel Hill a small town with a big-city attitude

DeJuan Hoggard Image
Wednesday, June 28, 2023
Boomtowns: Chapel Hill a small town with a big-city attitude
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Chapel Hill is balancing growth while trying to prevent becoming a sprawling community, much like many of its not-so-distant neighbors.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A small town with a big-town attitude.

That's what Mayor Pam Hemminger said about Chapel Hill in a one-on-one interview Monday with ABC11.

"We have so much creative energy here. The amount of spinoffs and investment into entrepreneurship and world-changing ideas is right here in Chapel Hill," Hemminger said. "And that's what also makes us unique and it attracts that like energy in people wanting to be creative and solving the world's problems."

Her comments come as the town, which boasted 62,098 in the July 2022 U.S. Census Bureau count, gets ready to welcome more development off 15-501.

Beechwood Homes, based out of New York and with ties to Charlotte, has signed on to a $500 million investment into housing, commercial, and retail offerings. The South Creek project is said to offer 120 apartments, more than 600 condominiums, and 89 townhomes.

"We're excited to make our mark on Chapel Hill," said Beechwood Homes co-founder Steven Dubb. "And to show everybody what a great job we're going to do, and it will be great to see what an asset this is to the community when it's done."

Dubb said the firm decided on Chapel Hill because it noticed many New Yorkers were relocating to North Carolina in the past 10 to 15 years.

"And we started to say to ourselves, why don't we follow our customers to where they want to live? And that's what first clued us into North Carolina," he said.

The land purchase and commitment fall on the precipice of Hemminger trying to balance growth while preventing Chapel Hill from becoming a sprawling community, much like many of its not-so-distant neighbors.

However, the Town is making improvements on Homestead Street, adding a parking garage off Franklin Street to welcome and accommodate traffic, finding new areas for greenway use, and is working in collaboration with UNC-Chapel Hill on the relocation of the university's admissions office to Franklin Street.

READ MORE: Other Boomtowns include Angier, Rolesville and Wake Forest

There is much to be excited about, she said.

Meanwhile, Rocks + Acid wine shop owner Paula da Pano said the wine shop's focus is geared toward a New York crowd.

"I patterned Rocks + Acid after a few wine shops in New York. And so they appreciate that same kind of vibe, that same kind of experience, and quality of care in what we carry in our inventory," said de Pano. "They see our background, they have curiosity, and they appreciate what we're doing."

When asked how best to handle anticipated and current growth while protecting what makes the intimacy of the Town so attractive, Hemminger said, "We have to plan for the future. We can't stay frozen in amber."