The new rowhomes of Hargett Place stand tall just to the east of Moore Square, their brick exteriors, front stoops and shared walls a throwback to old-school, big-city living.
But the structures represent a new era of luxury in downtown Raleigh. Many high-end townhomes, some with price tags that exceed $1 million, are being built in response to a growing demand from people who want to live downtown but desire more privacy and autonomy than condominiums offer.
Hargett Place, which will feature about 17 homes on Hargett Street when it is finished, set out to “change the lens of how people look at living downtown,” said Trish Healy, who developed the project with her husband, John.
The duo, co-founders of Hyde Street Holdings, wanted to connect the thriving downtown district with the historic Oakwood neighborhood. So they opted for a traditional design with special attention to detail – including the homes’ address numbers on transoms above the doors.
Inside, the homes feature open floor plans, quartz countertops, custom-made cabinets that rise to 10-foot ceilings, marble or glass backsplashes and steps that lead to rooftop terraces with views of the city skyline.
About 40 percent of the units have been sold, and four buyers have already moved in.
“These are early visionaries,” Healy said.
Developers have been building townhomes in Raleigh for decades, often at reasonable prices to serve first-time buyers who are OK with no-frills features. Higher-end townhomes have gone up in some parts of the city, but many of the fanciest houses – most of them sprawling – have been built in suburban communities like Wakefield.
About half a dozen townhome projects are now in the works downtown, and some say they represent a shift in thinking when it comes to luxury living – smaller, taller and within walking distance to jobs, restaurants and stores.
Developers say many new townhome buyers are moving from condos or bigger homes inside the Beltline. Some are drawn to urban living, and some like the idea of owning a home without having a lawn to mow or shrubs to trim.
Buyers include a mix of young professionals, baby boomers and families with school-age children.
Ed Miles and his partner are buying a three-bedroom townhome at West + Lenoir, a 12-unit project planned for the southern end of downtown with prices from the mid-$400,000s to $600,000.
“We both want to get closer to downtown, where we both spend a lot of time – going out to dinner, meeting friends,” said Miles, who has spent the past 18 years in a 3,000-square-foot home in the historic Hayes Barton neighborhood.
Miles, an accountant who grew up in Philadelphia, had a bit of culture shock when his job transferred him to Raleigh from Washington, D.C. Downtown didn’t have much to offer.
But downtown Raleigh is finally ready for him, and he and his partner are looking forward to the end of outdoor maintenance – and also a rooftop view. Their 1,700-square-foot townhome will offer privacy and also space for their 90-pound golden retriever.
“With a condo, you really do give up a lot of privacy,” Miles said. “It’s a different lifestyle.”
West + Lenoir, and many of the other new townhome projects, feature modern architecture – a sign of Raleigh’s urbanization and shift toward “vertical living.”
Souheil Al-Awar, who studied architecture at N.C. State University, designed The Saint, a 17-unit townhome complex on St. Mary’s Street that will likely be finished in 2019. Sizes range from 2,800 to 4,500 square feet, and prices range from $960,000 to $1.7 million.
Al-Awar describes the four-story homes as “rural-modern” that fit in with the historic Boylan Heights neighborhood. The exterior black brick will be triple-glazed, and 10-foot windows will let in lots of sunlight. Custom-made closets are coming from Italy, as are the faucets and tile. Recessed lights cost about $200 each, Al-Awar said.
In Montreal, where Al-Awar lives when he’s not in Raleigh, tall townhomes are considered luxurious, he said. He wants to see denser growth here.
“I’ve always believed in a high-density core,” Al-Awar said. “It’s taken Raleigh kind of a long time to adjust to that.”
On Davie Street on the eastern edge of downtown, construction just got started on 15 townhomes as part of Transfer Co. Olde East, where a warehouse is being converted into a food hall and grocery store.
The units will feature chef-inspired kitchens to keep in line with the food theme, said developer Jason Queen.
“It’s always been a really cool urban design,” Queen said. “We kind of went on that.”
10 Arros, another project with a modern design, will feature 10 townhomes on New Bern Avenue.
The units, about 1,500 square feet, will feature black, white and gray colors inside and out, said Linda Lavis, a project manager with JDavis Architects. Flat-front cabinets and “clean, linear” lighting add to the modern design. Buyers can expect to pay up to $485,000.
New development in the city’s core has drawn criticism from some who worry about the loss of affordable housing and a change in character.
It’s important for Raleigh to preserve more of its history and push for landmarks to be placed on the statewide list of historic sites, said Ernest Dollar, director of the City of Raleigh Museum and the Pope House Museum.
But Dollar said a changing downtown landscape was inevitable, including a shift from large Victorian homes to smaller townhouses.
“It’s a hallmark of Raleigh becoming a modern city,” he said. “This is how cities handle a large influx of people.”
Healy, from Hargett Place, said recent downtown real estate trends represent “the next step in a marketplace.” For years, downtown Raleigh has seen a boom of new rental apartments.
“I believe a city is a mix of uses,” Healy said. “For our city to grow right, we needed for-sale housing where owners move in and care for their homes.”
Many of those owners have one thing in common: They want a good view.
The biggest selling feature for downtown townhomes is a rooftop terrace, said Johnny Chappell, a Realtor who is working with Lambert Development on West + Lenoir.
“If you put a rooftop on it, it’s a big deal,” Chappell said.