Clayton is growing but don’t call it a bedroom community for Raleigh

For an unassuming municipal building, Town Hall has been at the center of Clayton’s history both physically and figuratively in its 90-some years. It has served as a council chambers, police station, fire station, courtroom, jail, staff offices and library — mostly all at once.

Largely abandoned since 2002, the red brick landmark has been pressed back into service, this time to help shepherd a downtown revitalization in a fast-growing town. Its latest incarnation? Apartments for millennials.

Millennial is a convenient marketing label, but developers throughout the region have been selling smaller houses and apartments as ideal for first-time buyers or renters and for the retired who don’t have to make room for families. In this case, the one-bedroom and loft units will range from about 500 to 800 square feet.

Designed by Raleigh firm Maurer Architecture, the plan is for exposed brick interiors, refinished hardwood floors, high ceilings and the latest appliances. The two-story building is just one block from Main Street.

“I think old-school development in Clayton is going to have to step up,” said Reid Smith, who runs the largest single-family detached home building company in Johnston County. “Things are changing. We’re trying to do our best to change with it.”

Clayton’s downtown has been growing steadily. Town planners and developers say modest financial incentives started a decade ago gradually gained momentum and helped create an inviting atmosphere to draw businesses downtown and to retain a small-town charm that has made Clayton more than just a bedroom community for commuters to Raleigh.

“That’s what a lot of people think,” Smith said. “We’re very blessed to have jobs being created in Clayton with Caterpillar, Novo Nordisk, an industrial district, downtown. We have 120 employees on Main Street. There are a lot of jobs in Clayton. We’ve explained that a piece of real estate is only where a job goes to sleep. Real estate and homes follow jobs.”

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(News & Observer, 7/18/18)