Chapel Hill sees substantial growth

by Andy Willard

Last week, Money Magazine ranked Chapel Hill as the 36th best place to live in America. It seems that more and more people are attracted to Chapel Hill, a town that has grown by more than 40 percent in the last 20 years. What exactly is fueling this growth?

Over the past 20 years, Chapel Hill has grown dramatically from a small university town into a bustling part of the Research Triangle. (Photo courtesy of Caroline Culler)

Chapel Hill is a long way from home for Frank Tollanes. The Norwegian native came to the United States this summer because his wife is doing a stint with a research institute in the Research Triangle.

“We came over, the whole family,” Tollanes said. “My wife is a medical doctor and researcher. The most striking thing I think is the people are incredibly friendly and nice to us.”

Tollanes is just one person in a larger demographic trend of people who have no affiliation with the university coming to live in Chapel Hill. Since 1990, the town has seen an increase of more than 15,000 residents, making Chapel Hill much more than a university town.

Jonathan Howes served as mayor from 1987 to 1991, and he says the influx of people who were not affiliated with the university began around that time.

“It was still primarily a university town,” Howes said. “Most of the people who lived here or in Carrboro had some association with the university. But, you were beginning to see the connection with the broader region, the Research Triangle.”

Howes says new developments, like Meadowmont and Southern Village, are home to a lot of the new demographic.

“Both of those neighborhoods are particularly attractive to people who may be associated with the university, may not need to come to campus or are oriented to jobs in the Research Triangle or the airport.”

His thoughts were accurate in the case of Tollanes, who lives in a townhome in Meadowmont. Howes says he can’t imagine anyone not wanting to come here as long as the quality of life remains high.

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