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Forested recreation in the heart of the Triangle 

RDU Forest village Concept

The RDU Forest Village Concept offers a model for the future of visionary, environmentally-centered commercial development that would generate revenue for RDU.

The RDU Forest Village Concept is a unique opportunity to create a world class recreation destination that would attract visitors and generate revenue for RDU. This concept was professionally developed and evaluated by two landscape architecture firms: EDSA, an internationally-renowned landscape developer firm (e.g., Marriott destination resorts around the world) and Susan Hatchel, a landscape design firm that does parks and greenways master planning for NC local governments, including Raleigh. 

Surrounded by major traffic arteries, local and regional greenway connections, and adjacent to the most extensive and outstanding park in an urban area in the Southeastern United State (William B. Umstead State Park), the forested lands owned by Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority represent a unique economic and cultural resource.

Ease of access by road and air, intrinsic on-site natural amenities, proximity to Umstead State Park, and a sophisticated urban greenway network, coupled with a focus on quality aesthetics in the completed development, offer an unprecedented opportunity for economic returns to both investors and to the Airport owners seeking revenue to support ongoing Airport infrastructure improvements.

Download the complete RDU Forest Village Concept.


Expanding aviation services at the adjacent world-class RDU International Airport enables branding the RDU Forest complex as an international destination for both tourist and corporate client.

The economic and intellectual vitality of the NC Triangle region encourages branding as an expanding Southeastern commercial hub for decades to come.

The youth, energy and affluence of the NC Triangle regional work-force supports branding as a local destination hot-spot for dining, recreation, commerce, and commercial support services.

A coherent development with a focus on sustainability and the integration of both national amenities and commercial opportunity is both presently unique, and offers a model for the future of visionary environmentally-centered commercial development. 

Download the complete RDU Forest Village Concept.

RDU Forest Village Build Out Opportunity

200 acres (more if include nearby and adjacent private business acres)

4,000,000 leasable square footage supports economic engine for RDU airport, community, tourism

RDU Forest destination

50 miles forested trails Internationally Certified IMBA (International Mountain bicycling association)

Trail center Events, conferences, trainings, retreats



Diversity outreach


Creates an approximately ten mile loop around the airport, aiding connectivity

Provides connectivity to major employment centers

Bike share program at terminal and car rental locations

Improves employee and visitor health and wellness

Protects natural resources

Attracts visitors to retail/office/recreational development

Connects east to west around RDU and proposed 1-40 bike way

Links RDU and RTP with greenways, NC Art Museum and universities, making the airport complex the regional transit hub of all modes of transport

Precedent Studies

There are multiple cities that have similar models:

  • Snowmass Resort, CO
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, TX
  • Baltimore International Airport, MD
  • Pittsburgh International Airport, PA
  • Atlanta International Airport, GA
  • Portland International Airport, OR
  • U.S. National Whitewater Center, NC
  • Nantahala Outdoor Center, NC
  • Sierra Nevada Brewery, NC
  • Bentonville, AR
  • Steamboat Springs, CO
  • Park City, UT
Download the complete RDU Forest Village Concept.

UNC Development Finance Initiative (DFI) Feasibility Analysis

At the request of the Wake County Board of County Commissioners, the Development Finance Initiative (DFI) at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) School of Government conducted an introductory feasibility analysis to examine the potential of a recreation-themed development program south of the primary facilities at Raleigh-Durham (RDU) International Airport. Most of the parcels in question are owned by the RDU Airport Authority (RDUAA). The DFI analysis has led to the following core points:

  • There is public interest in maintaining a strong, thriving airport and in maximizing the recreational amenities in the area surrounding the airport.
  • The airport-controlled land south of the primary airport facilities contains multiple developable areas but also contains topological challenges and lacks infrastructure.
  • The core parcels pertinent to the analysis are in the center of the larger Raleigh-Durham metro region and provide easy access to major road arteries, greenways, and trail systems.
  • There is market demand for increased recreational amenities in the region, including play spaces and themed recreational spaces.
  • Additional recreational amenities would complement the existing network of outdoor trails and provide a higher volume of recreation use. A fully built-out set of amenities would attract users from the growing nearby communities and from the broader region, as well as visitors specifically seeking areas with concentrated recreational opportunities.
  • Increased volume of recreational users should strengthen the market for hospitality and other commercial uses and create an opportunity for thematic and niche-based markets tied to recreational use.
  • Ultimately, private sector development should create sufficient property tax revenue to pay for the necessary development infrastructure, including infrastructure for recreational amenities. 
  • DFI conservatively estimated that a recreation-themed development concept could catalyze roughly $200 million in private investment. This $200 million could generate up to $2 million in tax revenue for Wake County. Retail space and some of the recreational facilities would also generate sales taxes. These revenue sources could finance public infrastructure improvements and maintenance related to the recreational district.

Read the full UNC DFI Feasibility Analysis here.

A Better Business Plan for RDU

Read the business plan written by Natalie Lew about RDU Forest Village. Natalie writes about the business opportunity including restaurants; small to medium meeting and entertainment venues and outdoor recreation-education-team building features that creates an airport campus which benefits the airport, residents, travelers, businesses and more. Read now.

RTA RDU AID Task Force Recommendations

Recently, a Regional Transportation Alliance RDU Airport Infrastructure Development (AID) Task Force recommended a complete revamp of the LAND USE portion of the RDU Airport Master Plan to better protect our “beloved” Umstead State Park. Their recommendation is insightful. The RDUAA studied alternatives for the runways, terminal and related in their $4.3 million dollar Vision 2040 grant. 

But, they failed to do any alternative evaluations to their non-aeronautic land use plan which destroys Lake Crabtree County Park’s 147 acres of bike/pedestrian trails for an office park, destroys the Odd Fellows Tract with a quarry, and destroys another forested area between these two tracts that serves as a wildlife corridor into Umstead State Park for parking lots. 

Interested in Helping Us Make This A Reality?

This is currently our vision for what this area could become, but we need your help to make it a reality. Visit our What You Can Do page to see quick actions you can take now or contact us

Download a PDF of the complete RDU Forest Village Concept here.  



We are a coalition of residents, organizations, businesses, and entrepreneurs working towards preserving Lake Crabtree County Park, protecting Umstead State Park, and preserving the forested corridor that connects them.