Suburbanization and the Identity of Apex

Identity is a fickle thing for those who grow up in suburbs such as Apex. The past is maintained by the chipping paint of the downtown district, yet infused with the new of coffee shops and boutiques, still rattling in tune with the trains which gave Apex its prosperity. Right now, Apex feels like a placeless place, existing in a space of constant expansion, and trapped in days gone. Country roads mosey lazily into shopping centers, you’re either in the middle of nowhere or a Starbucks. Walking through the developments, one could scarcely distinguish from it from Carry or any other newly built suburb. As more people flock to the Peak for the benefits that RTP—regarded as a more stable Silicon Valley, where one can raise a family and hold a steady tech job—brings, what will it become?

Is there a sadness that ought to accompany the erasure of the old, or is should it be fully embraced? Currently, Apex exists in a vacuum of slow-paced life, intermingled with booming tech industries and the monotony of suburban America. The essence of Apex—whatever it may be, and which I will try to expand upon—is going to evolve with the influx of new residents and expansion of housing developments.

When living in suburban neighborhoods became commonplace, differing architecture and color palettes eroded into blocks of the same model repeated endlessly. Historic downtown Apex—with its large Victorians, bay windows, verandas, and colorful paint—is the only place that many would consider able to express the spirit of Apex, or at least what it once was.

When one mentions Apex, the 2015 article by Everyday Money that deemed Apex  the “Best Small Town in America” is one of the first points of favor to come up. We hold onto our identity—and the reckognition that we gained for it—as a small town like a badge of honor, despite it being a self-defeating tagline. With this report, Apex became the small town that everyone wanted to move to. Technically speaking, given the rate of growth and development, Apex could qualify as a city in the near future. It’s hard to know, however, just what that city would look like. Apex is already such a bizarre mix of the rural, commercial, and residential that one finds it hard to imagine it as anything else.

Apex used to the quintessential small town, and was regarded as country. The growth that its seen is remarkable to many longtime residents, and a little overwhelming. This issue is more than just purely rooted in aesthetics as well; the makeup of a place says a lot about its culture as well. This signals a departure from the old, a shift in the sense of community that Apex is known for. We still have a lot of small town charms, such as our Christmas Parade, Peak Fest, and other community activities centralized downtown. Part of the charm of these events is seeing people that you know, and exchanging pleasantries in passing; everybody still knows everybody somehow here, and even strangers are friendly with each other.

Apex is a genuinely nice place, but it’s hard to not wish it to be more. The idea of it changing brings an initial push-back of nostalgia, but also sparks the impulse to scrap everything in many. Apex is a nice place to live if you’re married with kids, but there is a disappointment in growing up here. Ennui, a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement, surmises the experience of many of Apex’s youth. However, the prospect of changing Apex brings no solution either. What would one add? It’s nearly impossible to point a finger at the one thing that could remedy the overall dissatisfaction. There’s nothing truly wrong with it as it is now.

As Apex expands, we’ll see a lot of changes. Some will be welcome, and others unwelcome. The suburbs will expand, the landscape will become even more disorienting for a time, and eventually we’ll all begin to depart from the Apex of old, as hard as some may try to hold onto it.

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