Raleigh-Durham’s “Triangle,” a region that spans three major universities and their respective cities, got its moniker from a commercial real estate development — the nation’s largest research park. To say it’s been successful is an understatement. It rebranded the area with its name and grew into an economic powerhouse for the region. With its ever-growing influx of global biotech, pharma and micro-electronic focused companies and the sophisticated work environments they require, private real estate investment opportunities are abundant.
Completed in 1959, Durham’s 7,000-acre Research Triangle Park is home to IBM, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, Fidelity Investments and more than 250 other companies. Its strategic location near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport encourages technology transfer worldwide from Duke University, North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – the three academic nodes that define the Research Triangle and inspired its name.
A smarter, cheaper workforce increases the Triangle’s appeal to businesses
For generations, the Research Triangle Park has attracted skilled workers to its tech vanguard. Not surprisingly, CBRE rates Raleigh-Durham seventh for high-skilled tech labor among North American markets. Nearly half the Raleigh-Durham region’s adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to U.S. Census figures, with a high proportion of people in their 30s and 40s.
The influx of young professionals contributes to broad job growth and 3.2% unemployment. In the past year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that employment grew 5% in Raleigh-Durham’s large professional and business-services sector, as well as in information and financial services. Average hourly wages are slightly below the national average for a range of occupations, from software developers, civil engineers and accountants to nurses, construction workers and customer service representatives, making the area even more attractive for new businesses. But the metropolitan area’s low cost of living makes its slightly lower wages more than advantageous to workers; it comes in at 71.40 for Raleigh and 66.44 for Durham on Numbeo’s index.
Raleigh-Durham adds the stability of a state capitol to its business profile: Professional and business services and government contribute over a third of the region’s workforce, according to the BLS. The professional workforce supports the market for high-quality, well-located office properties that offer workers after-hours access, such as Origin’s Trinity Place near I-40, the airport and a vibrant entertainment area.
Economic health is central to Raleigh-Durham’s real estate investment opportunities. Multifamily rents are expected to rise this year through 2021, according to Colliers International real estate research, while CBRE expects higher office asking rents into 2019. Recent private real estate sales include a $135.3 million deal for the Lenovo Enterprise Campus in Research Triangle Park, which can accommodate an additional 100,000-square-foot building for Lenovo or a complementary user.
Family-friendly amenities and natural surroundings attract workers
In many ways, Raleigh and Durham seem like small towns or sprawling suburbs, with highly ranked schools, low-crime and affordable housing options. Among contenders for Amazon’s second headquarters, Raleigh is top rated for housing market health by the ATTOM real estate research firm, which considered school quality and public safety as well as home prices and taxes. Lower office rents are a differentiator for Raleigh as well, commercial real estate firm JLL found in its review of the HQ2 markets.
But urban amenities are also close at hand. University medical centers contribute to a robust healthcare sector: Duke University and UNC hospitals are nationally ranked in U.S. News and World Report ratings. Tourism and a young population bring culture live music and dining, including what’s billed as the world’s largest beer garden.
Located between the North Carolina beaches and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Raleigh-Durham has mild but distinct seasons for year-round recreation — boating, hiking, skiing, surfing. The geography suits both millennials’ active lifestyles and retirees’ search for more a temperate climate.
Nature space abounds in the triangle itself—including Durham’s Duke Forest, the 22-mile American Tobacco Trail south of Durham and Raleigh’s Capital Area Greenway Wake County is developing more trails, which could include an airport bikeway. Office campuses like Meridian Business Campus, which was renovated with Origin investor capital, complement their surroundings with water features, walking trails and picnic areas.
A rising regional economic tide in Atlanta and Charlotte has similar reverberations in Raleigh-Durham but the Triangle has its own unique demand drivers that make it well suited for tech-fueled growth. These three Origin markets combine to form an expanding mega-region, whose economy University of Toronto professor Richard Florida ranks as bigger than that of South Korea. All three markets share the employment, academic and lifestyle factors that continue to provide Origin high-quality private real estate investment opportunities.