Village District: Raleigh’s first mixed-use development celebrates 75 years

Jump back in time with us to help celebrate the Village District’s diamond jubilee, and save the date for the 75th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, April 20.


Celebrate the Village District’s diamond jubilee.

Provided by Tabletop Media

This year marks the Village District’s diamond jubilee, serving the Raleigh community for 75 years.

The oldest shopping center in the Southeast is pulling out all the stops to celebrate another milestone year with beer releases, special events, and an anniversary party on Saturday, April 20 — but first, we want to jump back in time to the Golden Age of this iconic district.

Village District’s post-WWII era

In 1946, local developer J.W. “Willie” York partnered with NC-native Raymond Bryan to develop the state’s first planned mixed-use development on 160-acres of undeveloped land, which would be comprised of shops, single-family homes, and apartments.

Fun fact: The Bryan Building, named after Bryan, is still standing in the shopping center.

After much political debate and the security of a $2.5 million loan, construction began in 1947 with the 283-unit Cameron Village Garden Apartments up first, designed by architect Leif Valand. York worked closely with Valand to see most of the plans come to life — the modernist architect is responsible for designing most of the district’s commercial and multi-family housing, as well as several single-family homes.

York also commissioned director of the Urban Land Institute, Seward Mott, to help take on the massive project — Mott’s greenfield plans won the Neighborhood Development contest, sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders, in 1947.

A black and white photo of an underground store front.

The Village Subway was home to 30 nightclubs and shops.

Photo via Village District

The commercial core (think: Sears and Roebuck Store) was completed next, with the majority finished by the end of 1949.

From 1947 to 1953, the district was developed into a booming community, mostly made up of post-World War II and modern architecture, with 65 retail stores, 566 apartment units, 100 houses, and 112 offices.

The district has gone through several phases, including the time it housed Village Subway from 1971 to 1984 — also known as the Underground. But we have to say, Village District has certainly maintained its charm.

A shot of Village District with the Raleigh Skyline in the background.

Village District has been a shopping and foodie destination since 1949.

Photo by RALtoday

Village District to date

The open-air shopping mall has evolved and grown over its 75 years, including undergoing major renovations in 2001 and being renamed from Cameron Village in 2022 to focus on the district’s merchants and shoppers, and so as not to honor the slave-owning Cameron family.

Now owned by Regency Centers, there are nearly 100 national + local shops, restaurants, and services nestled into the one-stop shopping destination.

The district recently welcomed several new retailers, like Shake Shack + Coastal Urge — plus, the Oberlin Hotel, announced last August, is expected to add 153 rooms + presidential suites to the still growing shopping center, catering to its more than 5.2 million annual visitors.

Some of our favorite spots? City Editor Cat loves hanging out on Tazza Kitchen’s patio with a glass of Chardonnay — she’s also found many treasures at Cheshire Cat Antique Gallery + Mode Consignment Boutique. City Editor Allie loves a sweet potato biscuit from Cafe Carolina, a seafood dinner at Cape Fear, and stopping into the Oberlin Regional Library for a read.

How to cheers to 75 years

Celebrate 75 years of tradition + taste by stopping by some of the district’s oldest residents like Great Outdoor Provision Co. (51 years), sharing a memory from the Village or the Underground, or by toasting to the Standard Beer + Food collaboration, called Village 75 brew, starting Saturday, April 20 at the 75th Anniversary Celebration event.