The Northside neighborhood, historically the largest African American community in Chapel Hill has been experiencing a loss of homeownership for several decades and an increasing demand for student rentals. Centrally located near UNC-Chapel Hill and the downtowns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, it encompasses an area of 188 acres (0.3 square miles).
The neighborhood contains single-family residential houses that sell for prices below the average cost for housing in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Because students are interested in living in these neighborhoods, landlords have been able to rent their properties for more than a family can typically afford. Houses are often bought by developers and converted to rentals.
The African American population has declined significantly since 1980. The U.S. Census found 1,159 black residents lived in the neighborhood in 1980. By 2010, there were 690. The college-age population has steadily increased, while family households and owner occupied housing units have decreased. Trends reflect residents’ concerns about today’s more transient community of students and renters, and the loss of a tight-knit, family-friendly community.
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The Town of Chapel Hill and Northside residents’ efforts over the past decade to further community goals include the following:
Northside Neighborhood Initiative – Announced on March 9, 2015, the Northside Neighborhood Initiative (NNI) is a partnership among the Town of Chapel Hill, UNC-Chapel Hill, Self-Help and the Jackson Center that pursues a shared vision for the historic Northside Neighborhood: a family-friendly, multi-generational community that balances the needs of long-term residents, new owners, renters and students. Self-Help will use a loan from UNC-Chapel Hill and implementation support from the Town to acquire and resell properties in Northside.
Northside Housing Market Action Plan – In 2013, a plan was developed by a 16-member Compass Group of residents, students and community advocates. The plan emerged from meetings with UNC-Chapel Hill and Town officials, Self-Help, the Jackson Center, consultants, and a 40-plus member group of local individuals and organizations.
Northside and Pine Knolls Community Plan –The Northside and Pine Knolls Community Plan, adopted by the Town Council in January 2012, has been lauded by residents and community stakeholders as a document that is truly reflective of their concerns and their visions of what the communities could be. In addition to establishing new zoning regulations, the plan also includes a number of goals, such as additional education and outreach to UNC student renters, better enforcement of Town regulations, establishing a dedicated funding source, and home ownership programs.
Development Moratorium– The Council enacted a temporary moratorium from March 2011 to January 2012 in response to the conversion of modest single-family homes into large rental properties targeted for student occupancy. The moratorium allowed residents and the Town to jointly design an action plan and strategies to address concerns.
Northside Neighborhood Conservation District – This special zoning overlay district established in 2004 limits the size of new homes, prohibits most new duplexes and puts other restrictions in place to help encourage compatible development The adoption of the Northside and Pine Knolls Community Plan in 2012 introduced new standards to bolster the strength of the district against development pressures.
Zoning Regulations and Code Enforcement– The Neighborhood Conservation District zoning regulations control the size of home that can be built in Northside. The Town-wide zoning regulations also limit the occupancy of single-family and duplex homes to no more than four unrelated people living together and parking to four cars in designated areas (with some exceptions). Many of the Town ordinances work to address trash, noise, parking and parties. Chapel Hill’s occupancy limit was set in 2003 to ease noise and traffic congestion in Town. Zoning regulations and code enforcement mechanisms are important tools, but these tools are not enough to accomplish the community’s goals.
Hargraves Recreation Center– The Hargraves Community Center was constructed in 1941. Initially, the center was called the Negro Community Center. Later, it became known as the Robeson Street Center and then was renamed in 1973 for William M. Hargraves, a former Parks and Recreation Commission member who died in an auto accident. One famous visitor to the Hargraves Center was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who arrived on May 8, 1960, to meet with African-American community leaders.
Northside Elementary School – at 350 Caldwell Street. The newest public school in the district, located at the original site of the African-American Orange County Training School, opened at the end of 2013. It also has become a vital partner in sharing the community’s history and hopes with students and their parents. The school has become North Carolina's first LEED Platinum Certified Elementary school. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Platinum certification means the school meets certain sustainability criteria.