The historic downtown of Wake Forest, North Carolina is in the midst of a renaissance that is bringing more charm and energy to the community, and more options for living, working, and playing.
While apartments and lofts currently speckle the upper floors of several picturesue downtown buildings, the arrival of new development in Wake Forest is expected to dramatically increase the livability of the historic district. Stockbury Manor and PowerHouse Row – two high-end, mixed-use apartment projects – will break ground in downtown over the next several months adding new local retail and an abundance of housing options emphasizing access, culture, and strategic growth. Both developers considered several communities in Wake County, however, the strong population growth, vibrant community feeling of Wake Forest, and the character of the downtown made Wake Forest standout among the others
“Wake Forest was, of all the towns we visited, it was the one I felt like had charm, charisma, a feeling, it was the right fit,” said Ray Wright, an Englishman who named Stockbury Manor after his childhood village of nearly 700 people southeast of London.The new building will accommodate four new retail spaces and 36 residential apartments in downtown that, according to Wright, “will be designed for any age group, demographic, or physical capability.”
Smart growth is a driving principle for the development of Stockbury Manor. Wright hopes that his unique five-story property located on Wait Ave. will represent the future of Wake Forest by mixing historic charm, progressivism, and modernity through the design of the building. “I recognize that the last thing you want is for it to become a concrete jungle,” Wright said. “We hope this will set standards for quality of life, and for creativity and imagination for future downtown development projects.”
PowerHouse Row, a $13 million, two-building project, will be situated on the opposite side of downtown at S. White St. and Elm Ave. Characterized by a mixed-use model similar to Stockbury Manor, the two-part development seeks to incorporate several local retailers on the ground level and up to 50 high end apartments on the upper levels. More than just providing new development, the developers of PowerHouse Row are seeking to build upon the historic aesthetic of downtown Wake Forest.
“We’re trying to recognize as much as we can from the history and the site and pay homage to that,” said PowerHouse Row co-developer and former Raleigh-city manager Russell Allen. Situated on the old site of Wake Forest’s Electric Motor Shop and near the Town’s old electric power house, PowerHouse Row seeks to incorporate unique brick architecture, local art that represents the history of Wake Forest as a Public Power Community, and an abundance of photography displaying images of former buildings on the property.
“I hope it will sort of add another destination for people to visit downtown,” Allen said. “A place of vital interest with restaurants and history that builds upon a great small town.”
According to Lisa Hayes, Director of Downtown Development for the Town of Wake Forest, the hope of community leaders is that these projects will serve as a catalyst for more revitalization and expansion of the entire downtown. “The economic boost these projects are going to bring with additional retail and housing is going to absolutely spur more development,” said Hayes. “I’m one of those that believes the heart of a city is its downtown; if you lose that, you’ve lost the uniqueness of your community. This will spark flames with other downtown property owners when they see what’s possible here.”
Community leaders in Wake Forest are committed to leading downtown growth with strategy. In 2016, the Town Board updated The Renaissance Master Plan for the Heart of Wake Forest, created to guide vision in development of downtown. In accordance with this plan, Town officials have worked closely with developers of Stockbury Manor and PowerHouse Row to help direct growth towards maintaining local charm and adding local flare and vibrancy. As a complimentary piece to new development, the Town plans to expand downtown streetscaping to increase walkability and pedestrian experience.
“I’m most excited to be a part of the revival and progression of Wake Forest,” Wright said. “This is going to be unique, it will be a progressive statement that the Town is making. It will bring opportunities that previously didn’t exist.”
In addition to PowerHouse Row and Stockbury Manor, downtown Wake Forest will see a handful of new shops opening in the coming months that will bring more shopping and dining experiences for the community, and, according to Hayes, “other exciting things going on behind the scenes.”