This story was written for WRAL TechWire partner CBRE | Raleigh.

North Carolina regularly tops lists as one of the best states for business in the country, and Durham is certainly among the state’s most attractive business-centric municipalities. Within the past year, the Bull City has seen a major influx of new businesses and developments that are shaping the layout and reputation of the Durham area.

This growth is in large part due to the unique atmosphere that Durham provides.

“I would say that we’ve seen Downtown Durham evolve — there’s a little more grittiness to it, a little more of an edge,” said Brad Corsmeier, who works as the executive vice president of the Investor Leasing group at CBRE|Raleigh. “Downtown Durham feels a little bit more like New York, like Chelsea or Brooklyn.”

That environment plays a major role in attracting large, successful companies to Durham — companies that are gaining national recognition and continuing their growth across the country. For example, the Durham-based tech startup company Spreedly has operated in the city since 2011, but recently landed $75 million in funding from Spectrum Equity, which it will use to advance product development and further expand operations on a global scale.

One of the latest companies to call Durham home is insurance agency Policygenius. Although it already has a home base in New York City, the tech company recently chose Durham as the site for its second headquarters. The new office space will be stationed at 555 Mangum, bringing an estimated 377 jobs to the city over the next five years.

For Policygenius, Durham was a natural choice because the atmosphere so closely paralleled its New York City roots.

“Policygenius looked at what they could get in Durham. It felt more like the ‘City,’ it felt like they could have that coolness, that edge factor, and still have the talent base,” Corsmeier explained. “I think to them, they were coming from up north, and they have something in common with Durham. They said it felt more like they were moving into the New York neighborhood that they were coming from.”

Within the past few years, this unique atmosphere that Durham offers has started to attract more and more attention. In particular, the city has become a hotspot for startups and innovative new businesses, thanks in large part to the tone set by sprawling areas like the American Tobacco Campus and the innovative co-working space of American Underground.

While Durham’s infrastructure and downtown corridor hasn’t always been equipped to handle this burgeoning business scene, new construction projects in the city, like the next phase of the aforementioned American Tobacco Campus and the new Venable Center, provide much-needed retail and office space.

“Historically, Downtown Durham has had very little Class A office product, and the vacancy rate has been extremely low,” said Tiffany Barrier, senior vice president of Retail Services at CBRE | Raleigh. “Some of those new products like One City Center, Durham ID, Venable Center and 555 Mangum are offering that much-needed Class A office space. The demand has been there, but the product hasn’t been available for companies.”

“Both local and national developers have Durham on their radar. They see a significant opportunity to build on the authentic fabric Durham holds both culturally and geographically,” Barrier continued. “The historic bones of properties like American Tobacco are impossible to recreate, it’s such a differentiator.”

Preserving the history of Durham has been a priority for new developments in the city. Brightleaf Square, which was just purchased by Charlotte real estate investing firm Asana for almost $40 million, is just another example of outside developers and investors building on the history that Durham already has to offer.

“In Durham, you have a really tight-knit group of people. It’s a very creative and collaborative network,” Barrier said. “Companies are seeking locations where they can feel the culture and are surrounded by unique experiences. The storefronts across Downtown Durham offer that eclectic vibe with energetic restaurants, shops, boutique hotels, performing arts, sporting venues and now lots of multifamily units to live amidst it all.”

While this influx of new businesses may be unlike anything the city has seen before, Durham and its residents are doing well to keep in touch with their roots while welcoming the growth — creating an atmosphere distinctive in the Triangle.

This story was written for WRAL TechWire partner CBRE | Raleigh.