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March 5, 1973
Chapel Hill grew by leaps and bounds in 60s
by Dean Gerdes
After more than a decade of booming growth in
Chapel Hill and the surrounding area, the town has
paused to catch its breath and to take a look at what it is
facing for the rest of the 70s and beyond.
One of the steps leading to this look at the growth of
the town was initiated by the Planning Board in
December, when they received approval from the Board
of Aldermen to carry out a "pause" in the growth of the
This six-month pause giving the Planning Board time
to work out the details of other programs, such as the
PITCH and Central Business District (CBD) studies.
Armed with information from these programs, the
board hopes to be able to better determine where Chapel
Hill is going in the next decades.
This new look at planning comes at a point when the
town is looking back on ten years of record breaking
During the 1960s, Chapel Hill was unique among the
urban areas of North Carolina. While these other areas
were growing about 27 per cent. Chapel Hill has grown
almost four times that amount.
The main reason for the boom here was the growth of
the University, according to Art Berger of the town's
The University grew in three ways, including record
growth of enrollment of the teaching staff and of the
administration and maintenance staffs.
"While the size of the student enrol Iment has a
profound influence on the total population of Chapel
Hill, data also indicates a pattern of growth for the
non-student townspeople," Thomas Steahr, a research
associate of the Carolina Population Center, said in a
recent study. . - -
Including students in the town's population, totals
show that Chapel Hill more than doubled its size from
just over 1 2,000 in 1 960 to over 25,000 in 1 970.
Excluding students from the town's population, the
totals show that the resident population grew by roughly
75 per cent. In 1960 it was close to 6,500-in 1970 it
was near 1 1,000.
That growth in the number of residents was the
largest percentage increase since the 1920s, when the
town grew by just over 80 per cent.
Not only the town, but also the township has been
dwdtirrj units 5,203 11,34
multi-family 970 3,173
sins! femily 4,323 8,171
dormitory 2.CS0 3,333
rrcrricd student housing 530 405
lend usa (ceres)
. 1931 1972
commercial S3 255-
residential 1C03 3.022
instftuSbnsI " IN A 728
vacant 9,733 7,223
0 Chapel Hill (not including students)
f Chapel Hill Township
'information not svcilsbSa
growing at a high rate for the last ten years. The
non-student population of the township incre : t J by
over 4,000 during the 60s. Most of the growth w& in the
Chapel Hill area.
The town grew in other aspects. These included an
increase in the land area and an increase in the. town's
expenditures, according to Berger, who last fall
completed a long-range land use policy plan for the area.
From 1960 to 1970, 22 i annexations were made,
more than doubling the size of the town, bringing the
total acreage to 5,447 or about eight square miles.
The other factor, town expenditures, shows that
Chapel Hill spent just over $500,000 in 1960. That
doubled by 1970 when expenditures increased to over a
million dollars. Those dollar figures are rated on the
value of the 1958 dollar.
In direction, the town grew mainly to the east and to
the north of the original center of the town at East
Franklin and Columbia streets.
Of that expansion, one of the largest retail centers
built was the Eastgate shopping center, where 25
businesses now operate.
Also in that area, a Jong East Franklin and South Estes
Streets and Willow Drive, are another 15 businesses. The
huge University Mall complex is now under
The residential areas now extend to the east into
Durham County at Colony Woods.
With the boom in growth came a boom in housing
and in retail businesses. Many of the facts collected by
Berger on these aspects deal with the Chape! Hill
planning area and not specifically with the town.
In 1970 the planning area had a population of 33,000
and included Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the subdivision
districts of the two towns. This is an area of about 19
square miles. N-
Figures for the planning area show that during the
last decade, while the population of the area was
doubling, so were the number of housing units.
Multi-family units more than tripled, single family
units nearly doubled and dormitory units increased by
more than a thousand. (See table on dwelling units for
exact figures.) " -
The boom in population is also reflected in the
growth of business in the area, especially in the number
Land use figures show that in 1960 only 88 acres of
the planning area were used for retail businesses. That
total was almost tripled to 255 acres n 1972.
More than 7.000 acres of the planning area is still
vacant land, an amount that has decreased steadily over
the past ten years. (For other figures, see table on land
Both the aldermen and the Planning Board have
discussed the need to begin to set aside some of the land
that is still unused.
The figures show rapid growth for the town during
the last decade. But how will the town grow during the
next decade and beyond?
Computer analysis of the factors of the area show that
the population of the planning area will increase by
about 3,000 from 1970 to 1975. The population of the
area should be near 36,200 by that year.
That rate of growth, about 3,500 ever five years, is
expected to continue through the 1980s. The population
of the area would then be near 46,000. "But that is only
if the factors stay the same," said Berger.
Although the University plans to level off its growth,
two other factors will affect the growth of the area, said
Berger: the continued growth of the Research Triangle
and the increase in retired residents moving into the
Chapel Hill, with a highly transient population, has a
growing reputation as a good place to retire, said Berger,
citing articles in national magazines about the area.
It is this continued growth that the town is now
looking at, trying to analyze, and attempting to channel
into planning for tbg future of the area.
Chpcl Hill Tovnship
JT-l Hill J I
boro I I
2 - I -