Some major changes are in the works to allow new development on the land that gave the Triangle its name. Research Triangle Park covers 7,000 acres in Wake and Durham counties. It could fit all of downtown Raleigh, downtown Durham, the campuses of NC State and UNC and then some.
55,000 people work at RTP, but no one lives there — for now.
The evolution from an office park to something more began with Boxyard RTP, a courtyard of shipping containers converted into shops and restaurants on the former IBM campus in Research Triangle Park.
Live music creates a lunchtime vibe, and an outpost of Durham-based brewery, Fullsteam, invites people to linger after work.
“What makes it really fun is that it’s not where you would expect it to be,” said Fullsteam’s Sean Lilly Wilson.
“My impression of RTP was always that it was an office park and not much else, and that’s the way it’s been for many, many years,” Wilson said.
Change is coming slowly, in part because of the covenants in place since the founding of RTP in 1959 that govern what can be built here.
Scott Levitan is president and CEO of the foundation that manages the Park.
“RTP is really zoned for these research and development campuses – so no public restaurants, no residential, no amenities, just R&D,” Levitan said.
Right now, the non-profit is creating a vision for the next 50 years. RTP 3.0 would change the covenants and rezone the land to allow new development beyond offices and labs.
“The workplace has changed so much just over the last three years, not to mention 50 years, we have to encourage them to think differently about their land,” Levitan said.
The foundation is already doing that at The Hub – which will create a downtown for RTP.
Apartments under construction mean people will live in the Park for the first time.
“We’re not talking about 10,000 people living in RTP. We’re talking about 100,000 people living in RTP,” Levitan said.
Levitan said denser development in RTP — where the roads and infrastructure are already in place — will help the Triangle grow inward instead of sprawling.
“A lot of that growth opportunity can be accommodated here to take the pressure off communities that are really struggling with displacing long-term residents who just can’t afford to live in those communities any more,” Levitan said.
That’s a changing tune for a place that’s given the Triangle its name.
“I think it’s a long overdue change for RTP,” Wilson said.
The foundation hopes to get the covenants changed by July. Then, they’ll go to Wake and Durham counties to get the rezoning approved.
A majority of owners and tenants at RTP will need to approve the changes.
They won’t require landowners to redevelop if they don’t want to, but the foundation is working on some incentives to offer owners who do.