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Chatham Park will change region as 'dynamically as RTP,' developer says

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A rendering of Bluff Park inside Chatham Park. A rendering of Bluff Park inside Chatham Park.

In just a few weeks, developers will be begin the decades-long process of building the most ambitious construction project ever undertaken in North Carolina.

On June 9, the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to begin development of Chatham Park, a 7,120-acre live-where-you-work tech community situated between Pittsboro and the Haw River.

The project is the vision of Preston Development, which along with billionaire investor Jim Goodnight, has spent close to a decade buying up the land in the area that will make up the region's newest technology park.

"I think Chatham Park will change this region as dynamically as Research Triangle Park," said co-developer Thomas D'Alesandro.

Chatham Park will be developed as five small area plans and build out will take place over several decades. The first order of business for Preston Development is to begin construction on a 25,000 square-foot UNC medical facility on the site in August.

The first phase will also include Chatham Park's first village, which D'Alesandro said will include residential homes, grocery stores, "maybe a church, maybe schools, more medical facilities."

"A lot of the philosophy of Chatham Park is coming out of a design with nature, method and protocol. How do we preserve the best of what's natural and weave into it the best of what is urban or social?" D'Alesandro said. "The first village establishes its own identity and you have place to shop, go to school, medical facilities."

The ultimate goal, D'Alesandro said, is to have a live-work-play community that will increase Pittsboro population of roughly 4,000 people to more than 55,000 once Chatham Park is in full swing.

"You can walk out your front door and be in Main Street," D'Alesandro said, "walk out your back door and be in a national park."

But the potential population influx has some critics have concerned about the county's infrastructure.

"Where are they going to get the drinking water for 55,000 people?" asked Elaine Chiosso, the executive director of the Haw River Assembly. "Where is their waste water going to go?"

Environmentalists are also concerned about the negative impact the ambitious project could have on the Haw River due to its proximity. At its northern tip, a portion of the development will be built right next to the river. For this, Chiosso said Haw River Assembly is ready to hold Present Development accountable every step of the way.

"They can make some very big changes in this plan without the town really having much say over it," Chiosso said.

With the finished development still 30 years down the road, Preston Development said it's hard to say what sort impact Chatham Park will have, or even what it will look like.

"The reality is [that] you can't plan that far ahead," D'Alesandro said.

Until then, locals like Oldhams say they looks forward to what the finished development may offer their small community.

"The grandchild I have now -- maybe 30 years down the road -- will be better because of what’s going to happen right now," said Vicky Oldham, who own S&T's Soda Shoppe in downtown Pittsboro. "From the research I've done and meeting these people, I think it's going to be for the better."

Vicky's son T.J. agrees. Adding, "I think it's going to bring a lot of jobs to the area."

In fact, Chatham Park is expected to bring thousands of news jobs to Chatham County.

Although the project is being developed outside the Pittsboro city limits, the town retains control of the site because it's part of Pittsboro's extraterritorial jurisdiction.

That means Pittsboro will still oversee things like zoning, planning and code enforcement.


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Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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