Our annual look at how growth is changing the Triangle — beyond just more traffic

Anyone who has been on the Beltline during rush hour, or thought it’s possible to slip in and out of Cary’s H Mart on the weekend, has reasons to question the recession chatter.

It’s practically a road-trip game to cruise a multi-lane roadway in the Triangle and NOT come across a development project.

Look around and you’ll find plenty of anecdote-worthy sightings that indicate the Triangle is doing better than OK. Yes, tech jobs seem to be retrenching at the larger companies, but Raleigh Triangle Park just evolves into a different Transformer figure in our economic landscape.

Robots in the sky? More like Hub RTP rising to the sky.

That’s why we hope you’ll spend time with what’s feeling like an annual report: The News & Observer’s “5 Places to Watch.” It captures what everyone is seeing in 2023: “The Triangle is growing up and out.”

An insightful snapshot

N&O reporters Brian Gordon, Richard Stradling, Kristen Johnson, Anna Johnson and Chantal Allam teamed up for this insightful snapshot of how growth and development are changing the Triangle.

The Triangle seems to validate author and researcher Richard Florida’s theory on impact of the creative class. In 2023, we’re spotlighting five new areas to watch that are reflective of the demographic changes taking place here.

In no particular order:

In 2022, our “5 Places to Watch” special report included Moncure in Chatham County, Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Park, and southern Wake County along the expanding Triangle Expressway. Cary and Research Triangle Parks made our ‘22 and ‘23 watch lists.

Growth from all directions

Census data show the Triangle’s growth is coming in all directions. Rolesville, Morrisville, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Wake Forest, Clayton, Knightdale and Apex have seen their populations more than double since 2000. The Triangle now has five communities that fit the 2020 U.S. Census’ definition of an urban area (50,000+ population): Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill and Apex. Wake Forest should be on the urban list by now, and Holly Springs isn’t far behind.

Construction continues Monday, Jan. 23, 2022 at the 7-acre Downtown Cary Park.
Construction continues Monday, Jan. 23, 2022 at the 7-acre Downtown Cary Park.

We’ll continue to see moving trucks filling newly created neighborhoods, winding one-lane-each-way roads becoming stop-and-crawl bypasses, and eclectic restaurants and shops opening everywhere. What we don’t know is whether our growing cities — all with plans to make their downtown a destination — will play well with others on issues such as regional transit.

There’s hope. The Apex and Holly Springs town councils recently met and shared similar opportunities. And the PNC Arena development plan gets more interesting if fans could take a train in future years.

So much to think about. So many possibilities.

It makes getting stuck in traffic or searching for a parking spot, well, … still annoying.

Bill Church is executive editor of The News & Observer. He used to spend an hour-plus getting home from work in the Austin area. He prefers the 28-minute commute to North Raleigh.