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.

Charlotte’s Commonwealth District- One of the City’s best Commercial Nodes

I included the traditional boundary for the Common Wealth district and expanded it west to include the sliver of land south of 10th St. The Commonwealth district is a historic crossroads of Charlotte where Central and Pecan Avenue meet. This district hosts lots of restaurants, bars, cafes, and neighborhood retail service along with many live music venues. The commercial district spans several blocks mixing historic and modern buildings but with mixed urban form. Also lots of new apartments, condos, and townhomes here generally with good urban form. Still many areas of historic pre WWII fabric remain comprised of pleasant 1920s-1940 single family homes.

Plenty areas to improve in the Commonwealth District from an urban perspective. Most importantly is increasing the neighborhood’s very low density, and replacing autocentric commercial. The neighborhood also has limited access to schools and affordable for sale housing.
Click here to view my Commonwealth album on Flickr


* Very convenient access to Dwtn (only 2 miles) across all modes.
* Decent Bike infrastructure includes a couple dedicated bike lanes and handful of bike sharing station.
* Great ADA infrastructure but areas of uncomfortable sidewalks crossing through strip walls and located too close to busy routes.
* Good middle income diversity although very limited % of residents living in poverty.
* Good amount of rentals and a nice diversity of price points. 1-bedrooms generally lease in the low $1,000s, 2-bedrooms in the high $1,000s and $2,000s, 3-bedrooms in the $3,000s.
* Nice large park (Veterans Memorial) Located in the center of the neighborhood. Includes tennis courts, ballfields and playgrounds.
* Good cultural amenities including a great array of restaurants, bars, cafes, and small breweries, lots of live music venues, and a couple art galleries.
* Quality urban amenities although some located in strip malls including a supermarket, drug store, public library, post office, a book store, many boutiques, several antiques, and several hospitals in the adjacent district.
* Overall a very safe district.
* Lot of urban in-fill and most of it is pretty good. 


* Density is very low. More similar to a suburb.
* Decent racial and economic diversity.
* For sale options are generally expensive but good diversity. Bottom of the market are small homes in the high 200Ks. Most properties selling between 300K-700K. Some larger mansions sell over 700K. Plenty of new townhomes and condos in the mix.
* Good tree canopy.
* No museums or historic sites.
* A public middle school is located in the neighborhood but little else.
* Quality urban massing in the urban biz districts (i.e. Central & Pecan Ave) is a mixed bag of auto centric strip malls & parking lots and quality form. Form falls apart further east along Centre.