SILER CITY — A town like Siler City isn’t normally on D. R. Horton's radar. The Texas-based company, the largest homebuilder by volume in the U.S., typically focuses on large markets with a strong growth pattern.
But with last week’s Wolfspeed announcement — and 1,800 new jobs coming in the next five years to this town of about 8,000 people — Chatham Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) site co-owner Tim Booras knew he needed a proven residential development partner for the Villages of Fox Haven, the 184-acre mixed-use project he announced for Siler City back in the spring.
That’s where Tom McKay comes in.
McKay, who works in land acquisition for D.R. Horton from his office near RDU, and Booras connected in late spring through a mutual friend, Siler City Realtor Scott Harris.
“I knew they had a great reputation,” Booras said this week. “And I knew they had a product that fit what Siler City needed. D.R. Horton is an extremely professional and organized company, and I like their product.”
Having places for Wolfspeed’s employees to live, Booras said, was critical for Siler City.
“We want to prevent that economic leakage [of workers living away from their place of employment],” he said. “We certainly want people to live in Chatham Park and Mosaic, but at the same time, we need a place for people to live, work and play — and spend money — in Siler City.”
The partnership made sense, McKay said, even though it’s not a traditional company market for D.R. Horton. D.R. Horton works in 105 markets across the U.S., including 45 of the country’s 50 largest. Working in 33 states, the company has built more homes than any other national builder over the last 20 years.
“We committed to it early on — obviously, we make our living selling houses,” McKay said. “But we committed early because of Tim’s encouragement to help Wolfspeed make a positive decision, because workforce housing is an incredible challenge with all these megasite projects that are going on. And you know, I think we have a responsibility to North Carolina to try to do whatever it takes to help those companies make those decisions to get here.”
McKay conceded that working in the small, rural Siler City market is a bit of an unusual move for D.R. Horton, but joining the Fox Haven project ultimately helps not just the town, but the larger economic aspirations of North Carolina.
“And obviously, we’re not the biggest player in the [Wolfspeed] deal,” he said. “But I think it did help that the people on that side, Wolfspeed, knew that we were bringing some needed housing really close by. So we sort of felt like we were a part of that whole thing, trying to help encourage that.”
Back the spring, Booras described Fox Haven to the News + Record as “just a concept” — envisioning a site for a mixture of single-family homes, town homes and apartments, along with a dozen or so acres of retail space and some commercial outparcels. His goal: provide the housing-starved Siler City area with a good mix of residential options and potential CAM site tenants move-in ready housing.
While working with county and state officials on securing acreage for Wolfspeed’s new chip manufacturing facility — the deal’s final real estate pieces only came together a week or so before last Friday’s announcement — Booras also knew Fox Haven, planned about right across from U.S. Hwy. 64 from the CAM site, needed just the right boost to make it happen more quickly.
“Now it’s in the hands of a much bigger company,” Booras said, “that can make things happen much faster.”
McKay says some details are still being worked out, but he envisions real work on the site beginning in the first quarter of 2023 and homes delivered in 2024.
He said D.R. Horton has had several conversations with Siler City officials to ensure that what they’re planning, along with Booras, is in step with what the town needs. Due diligence and various studies — including wetlands, traffic and more — are under way and will be finalized before a formal plan is submitted to the town for its approval.
“The exact type, style, and price range of the homes is not yet determined as we continue to evaluate the housing needs of the families that will be drawn to the area by the various newly announced industries in Chatham County,” McKay said, “and most importantly, the recently announced nearby Wolfspeed facility.”
Bill Horner III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @billthethird