Chapel Hill, NC- Home to the University of North Carolina

Similar to Carrboro, its difficult to tease out what is urban and what is suburban In Chapel Hill. For this evaluation I used Carrboro as a western boundary, Umstead and Mill Race as the northern, the eastern edge of the Franklin-Rosemary Historic District, UNC to the south, and a pocket of pre-WWII development south of Franklin and west of UNC.

Chapel Hill is named after the hill it developed along and the site of a small Anglican church called the New Hope Chapel. The town was found in 1819 to serve the University of North Carolina . The community slowly grew and reached critical mass in 1880 with just over 800 people. By 1920 there were 1,500 residents and 3,650 by 1940. Growth exploded after WWII due to suburban sprawl and the growth of the university. Chapel Hill had 9,000 residents by 1950, 26K by 1970, and now hosts 64K souls thanks also to its location within the Raleigh-Durham metro and the job access propelled by I-40.

For southern standards this is a good urban environment. The university helps foster good density, ad a quality main street (Franklin St) which host good urban form, many quality mixed-use infill bldgs, many shops and cultural amenities. The City also has good public transit and bike access, decent schools and park amenities, and is generally pretty safe. Overall the core of Chapel Hill is a very comfortable environment for bikers and walkers. When one leaves the main street and enters the more residential areas, the urban form is hit or miss often missing ADA curbs and sidewalks. The density also drops in the Single family areas. Chapel Hill could also use more affordable for-sale and rental housing, a dwtn public library, and better access to non-UNC gyms.

Click here to view my Chapel Hill Album on Flickr. Here is for my UNC Album.


* Very convenient access to the major economic powerhouse of UNC, which includes 30K students and 12k jobs. But not great access to Dwtn Raleigh or Durham.
* Overall good public transit access.
* Decent bike infrastructure with several bike lanes and plenty of dedicated bike stations.
* Great economic and racial diversity.
* Generally very good urban in-fill mainly along Franklin, Chapel Hill’s main street. Some areas of parking lots and auto centric development, but most wholes have been filled in.
* Good amount of historic architecture in the residentials streets. Some of it is good others is pretty bland. Some historic remaining along Franklin St.
* High level of pedestrian activity esp. along Franklin.
* Like most college towns a good abound of thefts but violent crime is low.
* Great tree canopy here.
* A couple well rated schools within or near this evaluation area. Plenty are located in the fringes of Chapel Hill. School ratings always high.
* Chapel hills has their own Community Land Trust to offer affordable for-sale hsg.
* Good but not great park amenities including a rec center, pool & tennis courts, a couple playgrounds & basket ball courts, and the wooded Battle Park. Lots of green spaces at UNC but not necessarily open to the general public.
* Great cultural amenities including many restaurants, bars, breweries, cafes, live music/night clubs along Franklin St. There is also a historic theater, several performing arts theaters and museums at UNC, and a decent # of art galleries.
* Excellent retail amenities as well including a supermarket, several ethnic grocerias, an urban target, several drug stores, several boutiques, banks, and gift stores, a couple book stores, a hardware store, plenty of dessert stores, a dwtn post office, a decent # of churches, and great access to the UNC medical facilities.


* Decent density, esp. for a southern neighborhood.
* ADA infrastructure and sidewalks is quite good along the main street and core of Chapel Hill. Very spotty in the residential areas, even in pre-WWII fabric.
* Mixed connectivity. Good in the core of Dwtn. Lots of disconnected and curvilinear streets.
* Generational diversity pretty limited.
* Rental product is much more limited than I would expect in the City core given this is a college town. 1-beds lease anywhere in the1Ks, 2-beds generally around 2K, 3-beds around 3K.
* For sale is generally expensive but some moderate options available. 1-bed condos sell btwn 250-500K, 2-beds anywhere from 300K-850K depending on size & condition, 3 & 4 beds btwn 350- the low Ms.
* No dwtn public library and gyms are limited in central Chapel Hill.

Carrboro, NC- A Progressive Community Located on the doorstep of Chapel Hill

Hard to nail down exactly what is urban Carrboro and what’s suburban. I did my best using Davie Rd as a western border, Main/Shelton as the northern, the Chapel Hill as the eastern and Jones Ferry/Carrboro as the southern.

The history of Carrboro is similar to the history of many North Carolina mill towns and largely parallels the histories of the University of North Carolina. Located just west of Chapel Hill, Carrboro was originally known as West End. It was settled in 1882 near the terminus of the railway because the state had a law that railroads had to be at least 1 mile from a university campus “to guard against possible damage to student morals and habits of study,” Most, however, viewed this as an attempt to keep students from leaving for weekend excursions. The town remained small until a 1920s building boom grew it to 1,500 residents in 1940. With the combined forces of suburban sprawl and student population growth Carrboro exploded after WWI reaching over 5K residents in 1970 and now has just over 21K souls. Current day Carrboro has a reputation as one of the most progressive communities in the Southeastern United States.

Like must successful southern urban environments Carrboro excels at retail and cultural amenities and is filled with many shops, food & beverage businesses, and live music. But the urban form is lacking largely due to its small pre-WW II population. There are still lots of surface parking lots and businesses set back from the street in the core dwtn area. Density is also low and ADA and sidewalk infrastructure is hit or miss. But there have been efforts to create a better urban environment with the creation of bike lanes and stations and quality urban mixed-use in-fill. Hopefully this trend can continue.

Click here to view my Carrboro Album on Flickr


* Decent access to Downtown Durham via car and worse access to Downtown Raleigh. Carrboro, however, is only 1.5 miles from the University of NC with its 30K students and 12 k jobs.
* Good bike infrastructure with a solid bike lane system and bike stations in the works.
* Great economic diversity and good racial.
* Great tree canopy.
* Generally a pretty safe community but some crime likely due to the large student population here.
* Overall good historic architecture especially in the core of Dwtn. Fair amount of good urban in-fill but plenty of autocentric infill too.
* Pretty good vibrancy and def. plenty of local buzz.
* Walkable access to several quality public elementary schools. Middle and high schools are just outside of walkable access.
* Rentals are pretty moderately priced with a decent amount of product.. 1-beds lease in the low-mid 1Ks, 2-beds in the low-mid 1Ks,m 3-beds mid 1Ks-2K.
* Carrboro and Chapel Hill have a Community Land Trust, model for aff for-sale hsg.
* Great cultural amenities including many bars, restaurants, & cafes, several live music venues and night clubs, a performing arts center, and lots of art galleries. Decent access to cultural amenities in neighboring Chapel Hill.
* Quality retail amenities as well including a supermarket, several ethnic grocerias, a butcher shop, a couple drug stores, a hardware store, several boutiques & consignment stores, several antique and home good stores, plenty of banks, a toy store. lots of gift stores, several gyms, plenty of dessert shops, a dwtn public library, several churches, and good access to the UNC hospitals 1-2 miles aways.


* Density is pretty poor for an urban district.
* ADA Infrastructure and sidewalks are pretty hit or miss outside of the main Dwtn area.
* Public transit access is so  .
* Street connectivity is hit or miss. A decent grid in the core of Dwtn but plenty of disconnected and curvilinear streets.
* Being a college town, not a ton of households w/ families and def a younger crowd.
* Park amenities are pretty limited including a couple small parks and short bike greenway segment in the core of Carrboro. But there is a large recreation center in the center of town.
* Urban form and streetscape is also a pretty mix bag. The form of Dwtn is mostly good but plenty of surface lots and set back bldgs mixed in. Streetscape is similar.
* For sale hsg is on the expensive side but not terrible. 2-beds generally sell btwn 250K-650K, 3 & 4 beds btwn 350K-850K. 1-bed options are very limited.
* Lots of more affordable rental product seems to be on the outskirts of town unfortunately.