It will take years for the 22,000 homes planned for Chatham Park to be built. But right now, more than 1,000 new apartment units are in the process of development north of Pittsboro — including the 264 units recently opened at Sanctuary at Powell Place.
Susan Keller is the manager and broker-in-charge at Rampart Property Management, which manages Sanctuary. She also works with Carolina Commercial Contractors of Sanford, which develops and constructs multi-family and senior living facilities across North Carolina. A former high school English teacher, Keller and her husband — fellow developer Carter Keller — live in Sanford. They have four children.
In this Q&A, Keller talks about Sanctuary at Powell Place and how it complements Chatham Park.
How did the vision for Sanctuary at Powell Place develop?
The vision belongs to the original developers of Powell Place, who always saw the opportunities in Pittsboro and planned for a multi-use community from the inception of the neighborhood. When that group met with Carolina Commercial Contractors in 2017, the partnership began, the timing was right and the process of Sanctuary began in earnest. Rampart Property Management became involved during the design process and aided in the original proformas.
Can you give us a general timeline of major milestones at Sanctuary?
Completing Sanctuary in the middle of the pandemic was a milestone in itself. Labor issues and supply issues were significant challenges CCC had to overcome. From a management perspective, the beginning of lease-up coincided with the original shutdowns in spring of 2020, and that was a challenge for sure. Rampart had to completely redo the marketing and lease-up plans, as well as the budget. Moving our leasing staff into the clubhouse was a big goal — that happened in May 2020. I remember planting the large pots out in front of the office myself in the spring sunshine, then snapping a picture and posting it to let everyone know that in spite of the pandemic our Rampart team was looking forward and ready to start serving residents, albeit with restrictions. CCC recently handed over the last building to Rampart and the ownership group, and we are currently at the originally projected pace for leasing; both these milestones are very exciting.
Why is its location so critical?
From a management standpoint, Sanctuary is ideally located. It is tucked into a wonderful and established neighborhood, with access to miles of sidewalks, greenspaces, and a fabulous Chatham County park literally a 10 minute walk through the community. Pittsboro offers so much, from a cultural standpoint as well as a geographical one. People can work from anywhere now, and with easy access to the Triangle and Triad areas, as well as Chapel Hill and Sanford, our residents can enjoy being in a smaller town (no traffic!) but still get to these other areas easily. And with the addition of Chatham Park, Sanctuary residents will be able to take advantage of the opportunities for activities and shopping that are planned over there. Who wouldn’t want to live in Pittsboro? There is such a wonderful sense of history and place here and it is such an active and engaged community!
Sanctuary is described as “luxury apartment living.” As a developer, builder and manager, can you walk me through how that niche (upscale apartments with plenty of amenities) fits within Chatham County’s other living options, and how it does (or doesn’t) complement what’s taking place within Chatham Park?
Chatham County currently only has one other true market-rate apartment complex, and that is over 20 years old. In the Pittsboro area, we are it. So, if you are in-between houses, or don’t want the hassle of yard maintenance, or simply want the freedom of renting as opposed to owning, there really was no option for you in the area until now. Sanctuary complements the housing that will become available at Chatham Park. Our product is different, more affordable, and offers people another choice.
How did you assess the needs when it came to deciding how many units to construct?
The site was only approved for a certain number of units, and the developers needed to meet this number and also visually integrate the buildings into an existing neighborhood as seamlessly as possible. There was a limit on how many units we could build as well as how many would really work for aesthetic reasons within the Powell Place neighborhood.
What did the COVID-19 pandemic change when it came your design/build philosophy? Were any changes made, or did you already build in WFH amenities?
We were fortunate to have already made decisions as far as design and wifi access that were forward-thinking, so our apartments currently meet the needs of the new Work From Home lifestyle quite well. We have built-in workspaces as well as 1 gig fiber internet. We also opted for bigger floorplans than many other new Triangle area apartments are building, which is definitely a selling point since people are spending so much more time at home.
Can you talk about your resident population? Where are you tenants coming from, and what brings them to Chatham and to Sanctuary?
We have residents of all ages and from many different places. We truly have something to offer every demographic. Projections show an influx from more populous northern states and high-density metro areas to North Carolina suburban-type areas, places like Chatham County.
You’ve had your opening — what’s next?
We will keep building our community! We are so happy that some restrictions are easing a bit, so we can make our many amenities at Sanctuary more easily accessible to our residents, and so that we can host in-person events on property that allow everyone to get to know their neighbors a bit better. Rampart is all about creating a community, both literally and in spirit. We are also excited for some of the local Pittsboro and Chatham events to start happening again, and are looking forward to being a part of those.
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