Where Will The Kids Live?

For a number of reasons, primarily the lack of availability and cost of land, the focus of new residential construction has become apartments. All of the major development projects currently moving through the pipeline – Village Plaza Apartments, Obey Creek, Glen Lennox, The Graduate, The Edge – are almost exclusively apartments for their residential components. And in the case of Obey Creek, about half of the apartments are targeted to those over 55.

So where will the kids live?

In Chapel Hill, as in so many communities nationally, apartments are seen as a poor choice for raising children. Historically, many of us want backyards and grass for our kids. In fact, many developers tout the fiscal advantages of creating environments unappealing to families with children – few pupils for our schools and ample school taxes.

Chapel Hill has long cited diversity as one of its core values. But diversity cannot be restricted to racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. Demographic diversity is important as well. I hope that none of us want a Town that is increasingly unfriendly to families with children. If apartments are going to dominate new residential construction – and there is no reason to think that it won’t – then developers need to start creating family-friendly apartment complexes. This means, among other things, larger apartments – three and even four-bedroom units; child-oriented indoor and outdoor amenities such as playgrounds, vest-pocket parks, and play and community rooms; spaces in which day-care facilities can be developed; and ample space for bicycle storage.

If we want to be both family-friendly and apartment dominated, then the Town and the developers who build here need to start planning for a new generation of multi-family dwellings.


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