SILER CITY — When prospective industries and businesses — and there have been a lot of them — visit the Chatham Advanced Manufacturing megasite, there’s one question owner Tim Booras always gets.
“Where will my employees live?”
Siler City’s housing isn’t adequate enough to accommodate several hundred, or thousands, of newcomers who might locate here with a new industry.
In fact, right now, Booras said, there’s not enough available homes for many new residents at all. He can point to Chatham Park, some 20 minutes down the road in Pittsboro, as an option, but that doesn’t address Siler City’s needs.
That’s why he’s also working on another project: Fox Haven Village, a 184-acre residential and retail site along U.S. Hwy. 64 that’s in the pre-development stage with the town’s planning department.
“Our intention with Fox Haven Village is to tee up a residential/mixed-use concept to allow a shorter time to market by a quality production home builder and quicker build-out in the event a project comes to CAM,” Booras told the News + Record.
Fox Haven is just a concept right now and has flexibility within the plan to build moderately priced single-family homes, apartments, garden/town homes and a retail center.
“We have approached the town in a pre-development phase only at this time and will work with town officials to obtain proper zoning, utility support as the process continues,” he said. “Our impetus is to be a good steward of Siler City and make it a more inviting place to live, work and play.”
Once a project has committed to the 1,802-acre CAM megasite — one of two in Chatham, the other being Triangle Innovation Point (TIP), formerly known as the Moncure Megasite — Booras and town officials will focus on what specific needs the Fox Haven project can address. One goal would be to mitigate economic leakage; another is to leverage the region’s growth, accelerated by VinFast’s $4 billion electric vehicle manufacturing plan, announced in March and to be located at the TIP site. The company says it hopes to hire 7,500 workers, a number that will certainly increase from the location of business, support and otherwise nearby.
“We all see the weekly announcements in development east and south of Siler, and we feel a responsibility to Siler to invest and offer housing solutions here at home,” he said.
Meanwhile, Siler City officials have recognized the limitations presented by the town’s existing water and sewer infrastructure and are working to add capacity, scheduled to come online late in 2024. More is needed, though, to accommodate growth that will spring out of CAM development and other business. And many of the industries which have chosen the region — Toyota’s battery plant in Randolph County, for example — for development have water needs two or three times those of existing industries.
“So our quest, as we pursue these projects, is to find sources to adequately serve them,” Booras said. “With the Toyota plant 14 miles up the road and VinFast 30 miles away, this is an opportunity for Siler City to establish ourselves on the map. But without water and sewer, we can’t do that. There must be a multi-jurisdictional effort with Chatham, surrounding counties and state support.”
Timing is critical, because in the meantime, Booras said the CAM site continues to be “bombarded” with interest.
“We don’t have any commitments yet, but there are several large projects that are looking, and the EDC” — Chatham’s Economic Development Corporation, the Michael Smith-led team charged with working with potential tenants and the state — “they’re working with all these projects and giving them information,” he said. “We’re just standing by waiting for somebody to make a commitment.”
In addition to the CAM site, which he owns with Greensboro businessman D.H. Griffin, Booras has joined with Samet Corp. — which helped develop Triangle Innovation Point — in an additional 292-acre site. It’s located adjacent to the CAM site and could develop with the CAM site or as a stand-alone industrial property, Booras said.
He doesn’t have a preference who becomes tenants at the CAM site.
“We’re looking at jobs first, not necessarily the industry,” Booras said. “You know, we have an obligation to Siler City and Chatham to brings jobs here, as much as everybody is invested in this thing. So it’s more about jobs — good jobs.”
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