One of America’s fastest-growing towns holds onto that small-town feel
The dictionary defines “apex” as “the highest point.” After the Town of Log Pond, NC, was founded less than a decade after the Civil War, it was renamed Apex because railroad locomotives connecting the town with the world could go downhill in both directions. But lately Apex has found itself repeatedly recognized for achieving an apex of desirability among small cities all across America.
In 2015, Money Magazine named Apex the No. 1 Best Place To Live With Under 50,000 Population (just before the town’s population zoomed past that 50,000 mark).
In spring 2019 Governing magazine determined that Apex ranked No. 1 among all U.S. cities and towns in the number of home-building permits per capita during 2018. And in May 2019 the Census Bureau reported that Apex ranked No. 3 in the whole United States among 50,000-plus cities in its percentage of population growth between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018. (Only Buckeye, Ariz. and New Braunfels, Texas grew faster.) Apex has ballooned from 4,900 people in 1990 to 38,000 in the 2010 census to 57,000 now. A recent study projected that the town could have 89,000 by the year 2030.
Why do so many people want to live in Apex?
It’s located in the booming “Research Triangle” of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, N.C. People are drawn to the whole metro area by the RT’s plethora of high-paying job openings, and Apex is just a 20-minute drive from downtown Raleigh. The region also enjoys mild weather and low taxes, and offers the cultural advantages of being 20 minutes or so from the heart of a major metropolitan area.
But these people come specifically to Apex because it offers the kind of life they crave after they get home from work.
“We’re basically a small town with nearly 60,000 people, and we’re working not to lose that feeling,” said Town Manager Drew Havens. “We have a very safe community. Our downtown has maintained its historic look. And this is a place where neighbors still talk to neighbors.”
“There’s a social contract when you come to Apex, that you adopt a mentality that we’ll work together,” said Shane Reese, a 39-year-old communications entrepreneur and Apex High School graduate. “That’s the small-town charm that informs everything we do.
“That sounds naive, like we’re a Millennial Mayberry. But I feel that, while we talk the talk, we’re also walking the walk and that drives our economic-development issues and our transportation and land-use plans, too.”
For example, when town officials asked voters in a 2017 referendum to approve $48 million worth of improvements to keep up with all this growth, a whopping 76 percent of voters said “yes.”
“We have added three large parcels of land for parks, one of which will start development this summer with 93 acres with multi-purpose fields, baseball fields, a trail and one of the first multi-level playgrounds in the country,” Havens said.
The Peakway is a highway loop partially around town that will be nearly complete with a $15 million investment in a new bridge. Downtown Apex already boasts a 13,000-square-foot skate plaza. More than a dozen other recreation spots include a fitness-obstacle course, disc golf and athletic fields.
A highly developed highway network provides access to a treasure trove of Carolina destinations – mountain vistas, the famed Blue Ridge Parkway and pristine beaches ranked among the best in the nation.
According to a 2017 Citizen Satisfaction Survey, the town scored 89 percent for “Overall Quality of Life” and 95 percent of those surveyed said they were happy with Apex as a place to live.