Northside Chapel Hill, North Carolina
University-Driven Gentrification

About Northside

   The Northside section of Chapel Hill, NC, is the largest of the town’s traditionally working-class, African-American neighborhood. It stretches along the north side of Rosemary Street and is bounded by North Columbia Street to the east and Lloyd Street to the west. The neighborhood developed in the period of Reconstruction immediately following the Civil War, and it rose to prominence during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s as a hotbed of activism and organization.

   As is case with most of Chapel Hill, it is impossible to understand Northside without contextualizing it in relationship to UNC. The growth of the town has been driven almost exclusively by the presence of the university, and Northside is no exception. All of Northside lies within a two-mile radius of the campus bell tower, and as Chapel Hill's primary working-class neighborhood, Northside has long been relied upon to provide the low-income workers that the university and its secondary businesses on Franklin Street require for operation.


   The construction of duplexes and multi-unit dwelling which house UNC student living off-campus is the process by which Northside is experiencing gentrification. Developers are able to rent each bedroom for $350 - $550 per month, and wanting to maximize profits they try to cram in as many bedrooms as possible. Thus a converted single family home can yield between four and six bedrooms when modified, resulting in up to $3,000 of rent per month for the landlord.

   The presence of duplexes leads to both economic and social side effects. Property taxes rise as the newly renovated or constructed dwellings increase the property value of the area surrounding them. Developers are also able to outbid most potential homeowners when a house comes to market, so purchasing a house becomes difficult, especially when the families are often very poor, as is the case in Northside. Existing residents of Northside also complain vocally that the duplexes disrupt the social fabric of their community. At the basic level, race probably plays a factor in this, with the predominantly Caucasian student renters being regarded as intruding upon and displacing African-American members of the community. To reduce the social issues solely to race would be incorrect, however. Student renters are usually transient members of the community and are regarded as not participating much in community activities.