HOLLY SPRINGS - As a wave of apartment buildings rises across the nation, town leaders hope to direct urban-style development to Holly Springs, which has little high-density housing.
New apartments are crucial to Holly Springs’ maturation, according to town leaders and staff, who are redrafting the town’s policies for high-density residential development.
Strategically-placed apartment projects could bring new transit routes to the area and house the workers of high-tech companies, they say.
“Right now, Holly Springs is still very much family-oriented. But ... you’re turning up with a lot more younger people that aren’t getting married, or getting married later in life, and they like to rent,” said Planning Director Gina Clapp. “Our goal is to make sure we offer the full gamut.”
Single-family homes currently dominate the town of about 25,000 people, with 9 houses to every apartment or attached unit, according to a recent survey. Neighboring towns have 3 to 5 houses per “multi-family” unit, according to the 2010 American Community Survey of a sample of residents.
Town staff want to guide new apartments to a few key, high-density commercial intersections.
Early plans highlight the New Hill Place shopping center, currently under construction on the N.C. 55 Bypass; the Ralph Stephens Loop, near the Walmart south of downtown; and at Kildaire Farm Road and Holly Springs Road, where an I-540 interchange could arrive by the end of the year.
The town currently has a half-dozen apartment or multi-family complexes, plus two more scheduled for construction and three waiting in the wings.
“There’s a need, and we just don’t have a supply,” said Councilman Tim Sack.
Early this month, he and the Holly Springs Town Council approved a reassessment of the documents that govern apartment developers.
Besides defining potential new locations for apartments, the town may also create a new path for denser apartments: The town could allow more units per acre for projects linked to mass transit routes.
Currently, the town caps densities at 15 units per acre, except for mixed commercial-residential projects. High-density residential areas, according to a town report, are key to the success of light rail and bus systems. That’s something the town wants, as its residents have virtually no transit options.
The land surrounding the New Hill Place mall might be prime turf for a “transit-oriented development,” as it’s set to host the town’s first park-and-ride bus station within two years.
The town also will ask just how many apartments the town’s real-estate market can support. Apartment complexes have remained a strong bet for developers and banks, so the town may see more proposals in the coming months and years.
“Most likely, Holly Springs is going to have a limit for the amount of apartments that we can absorb,” Clapp said.
But while the town has seen several new apartment complexes, it may not see the same boom as the heart of the Triangle, said Jim Scofield, of Apartment Real Estate Professionals. Most of the 11,000 apartment units planned for the region are headed for places like Cary and Raleigh, he said.
“The Triangle is bracing itself for perhaps even over-construction, but the outlying markets, that are far away from the job centers, are not going to see very much, if at all,” he said. “Until Holly Springs is close to lots of job centers, it will be a secondary development location.”
For towns on the receiving end, apartment growth has brought its pitfalls. In Cary, a developer aggravated a residential neighborhood by proposing a high-end apartment complex for an empty nearby lot. But Holly Springs may avoid that problem, Clapp said, because it’s young enough to shape development and constrain its high-density areas.
But Sack acknowledged that even good planning might not blunt conflicts. “You’re always going to have that,” he said. “You’re going to be locating those places near commercial development, and usually there’s residential near there also.”
Town staff may finish draft changes to the apartment policy in three months, at which point the council will hold a public hearing on the proposal.