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Chatham Park can not be anything like a sequel to Research Triangle Park

Posted Monday, August 4, 2014

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Pittsboro, NC - I do not really have an opinion about the Chatham Park development, as I know our rural, agricultural, and mostly bucolic county is already experiencing the indicators of ugly little developments all over the county that doom us to a future of identity-less suburban transformation.

I prefer planned development, and just wish that our county leaders had developed a real land use plan of our own decades ago, instead of leaving it to the profit-makers who don't care as we do about the nature of the county or keeping its North Carolina flavor. But it is our own fault, and now our right to do our own decision-making has been taken away by our failure to act until after the land was all purchased and other plans were made.

However, I do want to point out that by no means can this be anything like a sequel to Research Triangle Park. RTP was created by visionary leaders who saw the need for new jobs in North Carolina while our agricultural heritage was failing us. They saw an opportunity to bring research universities, other colleges, local and state governments, and businesses based in science and technology together to create a hotbed of creativity and innovation that would attract such business, and encourage those persons educated here to stay here, as our brightest and best were leaving our state and taking their state-provided educations with them.

So, a lot of people came together to make it happen, and the model worked so well that other such centers have been created, including the Centennial Campus in Raleigh, and others in Charlotte and Greensboro. Tens of thousands of highly educated, skilled workers are employed at RTP. But while most of the businesses that are located there are for profit, the Research Triangle Park itself is managed as a nonprofit. SAS, by the way, is not part of RTP.

So, if the developers of Chatham Park are claiming that they are bringing in business along the same lines as RTP, or that it is in any way going to resemble the mission or even the face of RTP, I would be very skeptical.

I would ask to see the partnership, the public-private partnership, if you will, and ask which local governments, colleges and universities, businesses, and land conservancies (RTP is an actual "park" after all) are at the table. I would certainly expect the developers to be asking folks like Research Triangle Foundation members and staff to share ideas, or at least be in conversation.

Research Triangle Park businesses employ roughly 50,000 people on 7,000 acres. The nonprofit foundation is responsible for recruiting and locating business there, and makes the building and land management decisions. Chatham Park proposes to house 60,000 people on 7,000 acres, plus contain RTP type businesses and retail space.

If Chatham Park is indeed alleged to be modeled after RTP, or to be its "sequel" with the addition of retail and housing, well, I would really like to see that plan and know who is involved, before I believe it.

How are these science research and technology businesses being recruited to Chatham Park & who is involved in the process? If these questions have no answers, then Chatham Park is just another development full of commuters, only a whole lot farther from the airport than those in Cary, Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.

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Chatham Park can not be anything like a sequel to Research Triangle Park

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