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North Carolinians Move Downtown, Apartments Double

Downtown Raleigh
Mark Turner
Living quarters has doubled in the core of Downtown Raleigh to catch up with demand.

Residential builders are scrambling to keep up with demand for downtown housing in cities across North Carolina.

New apartment building projects are on track to double the number of housing units in the core of downtown Raleigh within a few years.

King says as of last year, there were 2,300 residential units—mostly apartment condos—in the core of Downtown Raleigh. But 2,458 new units are slated to open over the next couple of years.

Bill King of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance says much of the demand comes from millennials and downsizing empty-nesters who want to be close to the action. King says there have been few options in the Triangle, which developed as a "suburban region".

"Our sort-of signature office park is Research Triangle Park, which is located kind of in the middle of everything, but not actually really in an urban core," King says.

"So, we're sort of trying this new type of development for the first time, which means that you're seeing a rapid increase in residential units because frankly there weren't very many residential units in any of our urban cores in the Triangle, or even this part of the state."

King says he expects people will continue to choose proximity over size. Even as families outgrow their downtown apartments, King expects millennials will pursue home ownership closer to urban cores and pay more per square foot for those houses.

Downtown Durham
Credit Ildar Sagdejev / Wikipedia
Durham skyline

The aptly-named Geoff Durham runs Downtown Durham, Inc. He says much of the demand comes from millennials and downsizing Baby Boomers who want to be close to the action. That, plus Duke and N.C. Central Universities draw a lot of talent to the area. They're moving into new apartments downtown.

Durham says his eponymous city had about 1,000 residential units downtown as of last summer. Now, he says, there are nearly 1,800, with more on the way.

"I think that, in a lot of ways, downtown Durham, its residential market is playing catch-up right now. And I think, where we're seeing that is, our rental units are getting swallowed up at a pretty consistent rate," Durham says.

Downtown Greensboro
Credit Yassie / Wikipedia
Downtown Greensboro

The phenomenon extends to Charlotte and to the Triad.

Downtown Greensboro, Inc. President Zack Matheny says the number of units has doubled in the past five years, with millenials leading the charge to live within walking distance or a short drive to work, entertainment and dining opportunities.

Matheny says more than 500 units have opened in the last 18 months. Another 500 are being built, to open next year.

"I could see us in the next five years doubling again." Matheny says. "People want to be in the center of it all. They don't want to have to travel. The commute, over 15 minutes seems like, 'I can't believe anybody would do that.'"

Matheny says the majority of units built recently in Downtown Greensboro have been high end apartments, but he'd like to see more diverse options in years to come.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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