Chapel Hill urban center puts you close to everything, including excellent golf

        Who can argue with the concept of the “new urban center,” a community that puts all the bare necessities of life -– and some of its luxuries -– within walking distance of your home? In places like Market Common in Myrtle Beach, SC, and Town Center in Williamsburg, VA, condo apartments sit above shops, making the commute for some storekeepers no longer than a flight of stairs. Add movie houses, restaurants and bars, a large supermarket, coffee shops and retail stores in the neighborhood, and you almost don’t need a car for all but a few activities.

        For urban-oriented golfers, the capper would be a golf course within golf cart distance. But where are you going to find a golf course that close to one of these urban centers? An answer is Chapel Hill, NC, one of the most livable towns in the southeast. Just one mile from downtown Chapel Hill and the large University of North Carolina, the new urban center called East 54 sits beside a few of the back nine holes at Finley Golf Club, a terrific layout originally designed by George Cobb in 1949 and redone by Tom Fazio in 1999. Finley is the university golf course, home of the school’s women’s and men’s golf teams.


Balconies at East 54 overlook holes on UNC's Finley golf course.

Photo by Tricia Weston


        East 54, named for its location on Highway 54 east of town, sits on 11 acres inside the city limits and comprises not only most of the typical elements of an urban center, but also includes a 130-room Aloft Hotel. The one- and two-bedroom units range in price from the mid $300s to $600,000. Residents span all demographic categories, from students at UNC to retirees aiming for walk-to-everything convenience. According to developer East West Partners’ CEO Charlie Nottingham, 30% of the community’s units are considered “affordable housing,” an accommodation that helped speed approval through the typical regulatory bureaucracies.

        Homes feature 10-foot high ceilings, hardwood floors and what the community’s web site describes as “high-end finishes.” On-site amenities include a rooftop pool and fitness center. East 54 dining options include a deli, plus Italian, Indian, Thai and Japanese restaurants. The large university provides a wide range of additional activities, including concerts, lectures, continuing education classes and, for those inclined to choose sides, the opportunity to cheer for the UNC Tarheels against rivals Duke and North Carolina State.

        East West’s Nottingham says just 24 units remain in the 3rd phase of the complex; a final building will include either 50 additional condo units or another hotel. All units are LEED-certified, signifying they include state of the art energy efficiency.

        Finley Golf Course is open to the public and one of the most highly rated university courses in the nation. I called the layout “a stunning surprise” when I reviewed it in late 2007. You can read my full review, with photos, by clicking here.

        For those who want the convenience of in-town living and access to virtually all activities, including a fine golf course, East 54 is worth a close look.


Photo by Tricia Weston.