Downtown Durham saw significant growth in apartment buildings this year—and more is on the way.

Of all new apartment buildings in North Carolina, 17 percent are being built in the space between downtown Durham and Duke, said Scott Selig, associate vice president of capital assets and real estate. This growth is a reflection of Durham's evolution as a city, and it can lead to the betterment of downtown as a whole, he said.

"The apartment development community has realized that people want to live in Durham now," Selig said. "They used to want to live in Cary, northwest Raleigh and Briar Creek. Duke is such a large employer that people can live, work and play in Durham at equal and lesser cost than other locations, since they already come here to play."

Selig noted that the target residential populations are most likely graduate students and workers in the Triangle, because undergraduate students have a three year on-campus residence requirement. He said that undergraduates nonetheless have much to gain from this growth, despite their lack of direct benefits.

"The developments that have been taking place now have spurred other developments across the downtown area, such as shops, restaurants and nightclubs," he said. "Durham is quickly becoming a place that millennials want to live in."

Shonda Jenson, who lives in a newly-constructed apartment building downtown, recently moved to Durham as a consultant and has enjoyed the city as an employee and resident.

"We all want a good time while making a living. Durham offers that at a low cost, plain and simple," she said.

These benefits have caused many to see Durham as a city that can be compared to large metropolitan areas of the United States. Selig referenced "The New Geography of Jobs" by Enrico Moretti—a book he recently pulled out at a meeting with the Durham Rotary Club—which says that Durham, San Francisco and Boston are "brain hubs, with workers that are the most productive on the planet.”

Selig added that this quote highlights the growth in culture that Durham has undertaken over the past few years. He said that by sheer size, downtown Durham has become a bigger place with more people per square inch—a factor that can lead to growth and safety downtown.

This growth, however, all comes back to the people who move here.

"There are exceedingly creative people moving to Durham, because of culture and education," Segil said. "It's amazing that we are on [Moretti's] list. The list is three [cities] long, and Durham three years ago wouldn't have made that list."