Burb Boomtowns

In Feature Stories, July/August 2021 by Melissa HowsamLeave a Comment

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Pleasantville? Perhaps. But there’s more to these 10 Wake County suburbs than safe fam-friendly spaces and strip malls.

Ah, suburban life. So American—this idea of living off the grid (literally) and swapping urban (city) life with the safe, pleasant, middle-class suburbs—perfect for planting a garden or raising a family or driving the SUV to a soccer game (we kid!). But those stereotypes are precisely the point. Whether evoking images of Pleasantville, Weeds (“There’s a pink one and a green one and a blue one and a yellow one… and they all look just the same”) or even The Burbs (new family on the block turned cultists?), those so-called burbs are undoubtedly entrenched in the American ethos, mindset—and landscape.

But today’s suburbs—and specifically the 10 major Wake County burbs—are not the complacent, conformist, strip mall- and chain-riddled pockets of yore. And people are taking note—and setting up camp in droves, with one Wake suburb jumping in population by as much as 150% in the last decade. As a result, these local burbs, beyond being safe and fam-friendly, have each found a way to carve out their own niche and identity. Here, we do a deep-dive into these 10 top fringe towns—five western (Cary, Apex, Holly Springs, Morrisville, Fuquay- Varina) and five eastern (Wake Forest, Rolesville, Garner, Knightdale, Wendell)—from population and developments of note to accolades to resident education and marriage status and more.

Population and demographic stats courtesy of World Population Review

Western Wake

Cary, Koka Booth Ampitheatre

CARY
Gaming meets arts + culture
Population: 174,762 
Growth since 2010: 29.23%
Density: 2,975.90 per sq. mi.
State rank: 7th largest city
Rank in country: 153rd largest city
Education: 86% have at least some college
Median household income: ~$105,000
Marriage rate: 62%
Biggest fest: Lazy Daze

2021 accolades: 
°No. 1 in the nation (Raleigh-Cary metro) for small business outlook
°No. 2 best place to live in NC by Niche
°No. 7 where millennials are moving in the U.S. by SmartAsset

Epic HQ: Epic Games

Development in the works: 
°Fenton, a 92-acre mixed-use development that delivers on good eats, shopping ops and luxury living.

Neighborhood on the docket: 
°Stanley Martin Homes plans filed in West Cary: 179 homes, plus four-story condo buildings with townhome-style units and rooftop terraces

Fun Fact: On April 3, the Town of Cary celebrated its 150th anniversary. Raleigh locals joke Cary stands for Containment Area of Relocated Yankees. The snark, though, isn’t far from a truth the town of Cary prides itself on, in that people from all over the world have transcended to call Cary home and make it the talent-filled thriving hub it is today.

Holly Springs, Town Hall Commons

HOLLY SPRINGS
Crossroads of freshwater springs and abundant holly trees (get it, Holly Springs?) meets farm-fresh life (Holly Springs Farmers Market has been voted No. 1 in the state many times) and killer craft breweries ( think Carolina Brewing Company and Bombshell Beer Company, one of the first female-owned breweries in North Carolina). 
Population: 40,050
Growth since 2010: 62.5%
Density: 2,350.40 per sq. mi.
State rank: 26
Education: 84% have at least some college
Median household income:$112,029
Marriage rate: 63.6
Biggest fest: HollyFest

2021 accolades: 
°No. 1 best place to buy a house in Raleigh area by Niche
°No. 1 safest city in NC by SafeWise, with lowest property crime rate in the state and the third-lowest violent crime rate (also earned in 2018 and 2019).

Epic HQ: Fujifilm Diosynth

Developments in the works: 
°Sportsmanship Way Development: 20-acre commercial and residential project
°Downtown revamp: Three projects set to add ~100,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office spaces, including The Block on Main and Town Hall Commons.

Fun Fact: BMX bonanza! The largest action sports facility in the world (Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex), founded by pro BMX rider and competitor Daniel Dhers, is housed in Holly Springs, which is also home to 2021 Tokyo-bound BMXer Nikita Ducarroz (see feature in our June issue).

Neighborhood on the docket: 
°200 new homes in massive new neighborhood by Foxfield Land Partners 

Apex, Salem Street

APEX
Culture + history meets pedestrian-friendly downtown area
Population: 70,182 
Growth since 2010: 87.27%
Density: 3,373.50 per sq. mi.
State rank: 15th
Rank in country: 528th
Education: 86.5% have at least some college
Median household income: $111,435
Marriage rate: 61.9%
Biggest fest: PeakFest

2021 accolades: 
°No. 8 best place to live in NC by Niche
°No. 2 best place to buy a house in Raleigh area by Niche

Epic HQ: EnviroFlight agricultural technologies company

Developments in the works: 
°Holland Road Mixed-Use Assembly: 60,000-square-foot commercial & 110-home residential project with additional outparcel 

Neighborhood on the docket: 
°Williams Farm PUD: 73-acre development of 170+ homes planned for western Wake

Fun Fact: Think Apex Day (#ThinkApex, traditionally the last Saturday in April) is an annual day dedicated to giving back in Apex via means that directly impact the community. 

Wake County suburbs: Fuquay-Varina

FUQUAY-VARINA
Craft beer paradise (Aviator Brewing Company, The Mason Jar Lager Company and Fainting Goat Brewing Company all within a short distance)
Population: 32,698
Growth since 2010: 82.29%
Density: 2,152.10 per sq. mi.
State rank: 32
Education: 72% have at least some college
Median household income: $79,000
Marriage rate: 61.3%
Biggest fests: Celebrate Fuquay; BBQ, Blues and Brews

2021 accolades:
°
No. 1 safest small town in NC by MoneyGeek
°No. 6 best suburb in U.S. by homes.com
°Top 25 Places to Live for Young Professionals in North Carolina via Niche

Developments in the works: 
°Gold Leaf Tobacco warehouse transformation: 5 acres slated to include Aviator Brewing Company expansion, co-working space, coffee shop, retail and indoor/outdoor concert spaces
°Q on Raleigh Street downtown: four-story mixed-use retail, office, residential
°Bellchase: 100-acre open-air mixed-use shopping town center with high-end retail, fine dining and office space
°Promenade at Pecan Grove: Fuquay side slated to include mixed-use residential and retail, event/concert venues, a farmers market, hotel and more

Neighborhood on the docket: 
°Brighton Ridge with 164 single-family lots, 56+ acres of open space and myriad natural amenities (via partnership with the National Wildlife Federation)

Fun Fact: Fuquay Springs (inc. 1909) merged with Varina in 1963 to become one municipality, which has since become one of the fastest growing small towns in the state.

Wake County suburbs: Morrisville

MORRISVILLE
Techcentric educated residents fill diverse burb chock-full of cultural vibrancy and plenty of ethnic eateries.
Population: 31,670 
Growth since 2010: 70.49%
Density: 3,633.20 per sq. mi.
State rank: 33
Education: 85.69% have at least some college
Median household income: $101,738
Marriage rate: 61.3%
Biggest fests: SpringFest; East Meets West

2021 accolades: 
°No. 1 best place to live in NC & No. 3 best place to buy a house in Raleigh area by Niche
°No. 1 best suburb to live in NC by Niche
°No. 3 for places with the best public schools in NC by Niche

Epic HQ: Lenovo

Developments in the works: 
°Developers are competing for rights to Morrisville’s downtown corridor project
°Biotech company Azzur Cleanrooms on Demand signed on to fill 75,000 square feet of remaining space at INQ 1101
°Rumors of a Trader Joe’s in the old Earth Fare building

Neighborhood on the docket: 
°Terraces at West Cary on Highway 55 near Morrisville Parkway: 60 upscale tech-focused townhomes with rooftop terraces

Fun Fact: Late bloomer: Even in 1990 (three decades after RTP began growing biz), the now booming town had only 1,000-ish residents

Eastern Wake 

Wake County suburbs: Wendell

WENDELL
Small town meets big charm
Population: 10,135
Growth since 2010: 73.40%
Density: 1,839.10 per sq. mi.
State rank: 86
Education: 66.9% have at least some college
Median household income: $59,236
Marriage rate: 43.2%
Biggest fests: Wendell Harvest Festival; International Food & Music Festival

2021 accolades:
°No. 1: Wendell Falls: Best Land Plan by MAME – HBA of Raleigh Wake County

Epic HQ: SPC Mechanical

Development in the works: 
°The Glennon, 578 residences and 30,000 square feet of commercial space Neighborhoods on the docket:  
°Belle Grove: 43 acre with 204 townhomes and single-family detached dwellings, plus 12+ acres of open space.
°Wendell Falls: Still growing, this “different by design” community is adding a 55+ community of low-maintenance one-story homes dubbed Encore by David Weekley Homes.

Fun Fact: M.A. Griffin, a local schoolteacher, dubbed Wendell in honor of his favorite poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes. And its pronunciation  (WEN-‘DEL) is credited to train conductors shouting “Wendell” with equal emphasis on both syllables.

Wake County suburbs: Rolesville

ROLESVILLE
Art and active ops aplenty await in Wake County’s hidden gem
Population: 9,359
Growth since 2010: 147.20%
Density: 1,921.70 per sq. mi.
State rank: 93rd
Education: 80.7% have at least some college
Median household income: $119,615
Marriage rate: 81.6%
Biggest fest: Fall Fun Fest

2021 accolades: 
°No. 7: Billed as one of America’s “Top Boom Towns” by realtor.com (alongside the likes of LA, Dallas, Brooklyn, Miami, Vegas, Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta…)

Development in the works: 
°$55+ million mixed-use retail/residential project slated to break ground this summer: 11 acres with 182 multifamily units and ~50,000 square feet of retail space 

Neighborhood on the docket: 
°The Preserve at Jones Dairy Farm plans filed: 150+ acres of 854 new single-family homes and townhomes
°Kalas Falls: 91 acres with 335 townhomes and single-family homes

Fun Fact: Rolesville now has Ting—the new crazy-fast fiber internet, marking the town as the fourth on NC’s Ting Town roster (alongside Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina and Wake Forest) 

Wake County suburbs: Wake Forest

WAKE FOREST
Quaint meets cool in its historical, charming, vibrant downtown (there’s a hashtag for that: #WhereQuaintMeetsCool)
Population: 48,841
Growth since 2010: 62.17%
Density: 2,770.70 per sq. mi.
State rank: 22nd
Education: 81.2% have at least some college
Median household income: $92,210
Marriage rate: 57.6%
Biggest fest: HerbFest

2021 accolades:  
°No. 6 best place to live in NC by AreaVibes
Epic coworking space: Loading Dock

Developments in the works: 
°Wegmans on Ligon Mill Road;
°JPMorgan Chase added first Wake Forest location to its Triangle rollout

Fun fact: Home to Falls Lake Recreation Area, Heritage Golf Club, White Street Brewing Company, The Factory (hey, inflatable playground, skate park, mini golf and more), to name a few, this small town goes big on entertainment factor.

Wake County suburbs: Knightdale

KNIGHTDALE
Youthful culture and award-winning brisket just minutes from DTR
Population: 18,761
Growth since 2010: 64.56%
Density: 2,515.90 per sq. mi.
State rank: 53rd
Education: 73.4% have at least some college
Median household income: $69,684
Marriage rate: 50.5%
Biggest fest: Fall on First Fest

2021 accolades:
°
No. 1 most affordable town in NC by Smart Asset
°No. 10 best place to buy a house in Raleigh area by Niche

Epic new food hall: Craften, a refreshing new concept by two Raleigh entrepreneurs—Kip Downer and Max Trujillo—that brings the restaurant mentality to a food hall.

Developments in the works: 
°Smithfield Mixed-Use Planned Unit Development: $65-mil+ 76-acre mixed-use project with 141 townhomes and single-family detached abodes, plus 348 apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space. 
°Merritt Properties plans filed last summer:271,450-square-foot five-building industrial park to include manufacturing and flex office space. 
°Mungo Homes project: 121 acres along Neuse River of up to 2,000 homes (anticipated to be an inaugural piece of a larger 550-acre project).

Neighborhood on the docket: 
°Forestville Village plans filed: ~280 townhomes and single-family abodes, plus amenity space at the corner of Old Knight and Forestville roads by the Knightdale High School and Knightdale Community Park

Fun fact: Knightdale is home to Oak City Brewing Company and champion pitmaster Christopher Prieto’s Prime Barbecue (currently of Food Network’s BBQ Brawl season 2 fame)

Wake County suburbs: Garner

GARNER
DTR proximity meets a small-town friendly vibe
Population: 33,291
Growth since 2010: 29.31%
Density: 2,094.10 per sq. mi.
State rank: 31st
Education: 71.8% have at least some college
Median household income: $65,064
Marriage rate: 49.2%

2021 accolades:
°No. 8 best place to buy a house in Raleigh area in 2021 by Niche

Epic HQ: Amazon distribution center

Development in the works: 
°Eastern Wake Innovation Park: office park with retail
°Beacon Commerce Park: 48-acre project with 670K+ square feet of industrial space 
°Laurensfield Court: 96,000-square-foot warehouse distribution facility (part of a plan for 400K+ square feet of industrial space across Greenfield Business Park)
°Downtown Opportunity Site: The town of Garner is weighing proposals from developers for its up-to-four-story mixed-use residential and retail downtown project.

Neighborhood on the docket: 
°W&M Partners LLC plans filed: 22-acre 264-unit multifamily project at 120 Yeargan Road north of U.S. 70.

Fun Fact: Garner’s former Holloman’s Road, which served as a link between its small community and the state capital in the 1880s and 1890s, is now one of the oldest and longest traveled corridors in North Carolina—the Central Highway.

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