CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) – A development three times the size of the Fenton shopping center in Cary will soon start to take shape in Clayton. It’s another sign of growth for Johnston County.

“Growth brings about its challenges but it brings a lot of opportunities,” Dean Penny, projects executive for Craig Davis Properties, told CBS 17.

A nearly 300-acre stretch of farm land in Clayton brings the opportunity for a new mixed-use development being called the Copper District. The idea is to incorporate street level shopping, dining and towers with office space and apartment living. Penny plans to include natural walking trails and several ponds.

“From a visual standpoint, this will be a very dense development compared to other traditional developments in Johnston County,” said Penny.

The property sits at the Interstate 70 and NC-42 exchange. It’s near the future complete Interstate 540 loop where traffic is expected to grow.


But Penny isn’t just another outsider looking to cash in on the growing region. He’s from Clayton and lives a half mile away from the site. The land being used for the Copper District is his family’s former Penny Farm.

“That’s the farm that my grandparents bought back in the 1930s, and so it’s the farm my dad grew up on. I spent a lot of my childhood here,” said Penny.

He’s excited to see it transform into something new that can add to the vibrancy of his hometown.

“This is very much a passion project for me to bring a style of development with amenities that this area really needs but has not really gotten yet,” Penny said.

It’s not all ‘out with the old, in with the new’. The family farm house on the property and the silo will be preserved and moved. Penny is also saving the original potato house with plans to relocate it.

“That’s a structure that my dad built and so it’s personal to me,” Penny sais.

The Copper District will be a multi-phase project. Prep work has started on the site. Buildings that couldn’t be saved like a tobacco barn have been torn down.

Penny expects to break ground on the first project this year with an office or apartment building possible by 2026. The full build out could take 10 years but for Penny, it’s not about doing the work fast.

“It’s important to do it in the right way, and so that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Penny.