The duo who helped build today’s Hillsborough

ORANGE SLICES

By Laurie Paolicelli

George Horton and Jim Parker.

George Horton began his career in real estate development, building timber peg, post and beam houses in New Jersey, but in the early 80s decided to move to Hillsborough with his wife and three children to take on something a little bit bigger. They bought 500 acres on Schley Road, built a life of family and farm, and lived there until 2005. That it would one day become Pleasant Green Farms, a residential planned community with a 5-acre stocked pond with a horseback riding and walking trail system, open fields and wooded areas – all of that was beyond George Horton’s dreams. But so was Jim Parker.

Pleasant Green Farms Schley Road.

Jim Parker is the Chairman of the Board and Principal of Summit Engineering. He’s a licensed civil engineer, surveyor, real estate broker, and general contractor who during the 80s and 90s was employed with the NC Department of Transportation. After leaving in 1996 he set his sights on founding an engineering firm and real estate development in Hillsborough. One evening in 1991, he was in the second-floor office of Alois “Louie” Callemyn discussing business matters and engineering/surveying projects, when he heard the sound of someone leaping up the stairs two at a time. It turned out to be George Horton, who until then Parker had never met. George was there to discuss with his friend Louie one of the ten acre Meadowlands lots just under contract for sale, and the site development he envisioned there. It was during that meeting George Horton and Jim Parker fortuitously clicked.

Early Hillsborough Investments.

Developing The Meadowlands would turn out to be their first of many projects together which, through smart development, thoughtful vision and public private partnerships, changed the face of Hillsborough and Central Orange County. It’s a partnership that continues to bring life to this community and bolster its economy to this day.

“The initial vision for the Sportsplex site at Meadowlands included a swimming pool and ice-skating rink,” Horton says. “Today there is an Orange County-run senior center attached to the Sportsplex, a day camp for those with Alzheimer’s and thousands of visitors who come to the site annually for hockey tournaments, pickleball, swim meets, group classes and summer camps.”

Orange County Sportsplex.

Meadowlands was just the beginning. Their partnership development includes the Gateway Center in downtown Hillsborough, home to Weaver Street Market and Orange County Register of Deeds, providing in town public parking and pedestrian streetscapes that lead to the Hillsborough Riverwalk as well as the Orange County Library.

Early development of Churton Street Blue Bayou.

Another recent project built by Horton and Parker is 515 North Churton, the town’s first condominium venture, and the first contemporary multi-family project to win Historic District Commission support.

The two also own several buildings on Churton and King Street—in the heart of downtown Hillsborough—that give the community its colorful flavor and help attract thousands of visitors to town each year. A long list of occupants include The Wooden Nickel, Nomad, Tom Stevens Art Gallery, Yonder, and Lloyd’s Pharmacy, just to name a few.

Alice and George Horton thanked for all their contributions to community.

Former Orange County Commissioner Dr. Stephen H. Halkiotis spoke glowingly of George Horton at his recent retirement party hosted by Jim and Jaime Parker. “The Town of Hillsborough and Orange County need to recognize the efforts of Horton and Parker over the last 30 years that have brought life and sustainability to this town, this community.”

Jamie and Jim Parker Ashley and Laura and kids.

But places have little meaning apart from the people who live and work in them, and Parker and Horton have invested heavily in people and their individual businesses as well. They have donated funds for life-saving automated defibrillators to outfit vehicles for the Hillsborough Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, as well as upgrading playground facilities at Central Elementary School, enhanced literacy efforts to improve reading instruction, and an after-school intervention program at a middle school for at- risk youth.

The Hortons continue to give to Habitat for Humanity and along with their children have donated time and money towards affordable housing, juvenile diabetes research, as well as arts and cultural programs.

Today’s Churton Street.

Jim Parker and his wife Jaime are involved with several non-profit organizations and give back to the local music industry, arts, media and schools, such as the Hillsborough Arts Council, Orange County Schools, Habitat for Humanity, Flush Fest, and Historic Moorefields.

Development and the developers behind it are sometimes maligned for putting profits before people, and for being more than willing to sacrifice farms and woodlands in an inelegant exercise of destruction. But there are exceptions, and the lifelong partnership and friendship between George Horton and Jim Parker is one of them: two individuals whose success has allowed others to be successful in their wake.


Laurie Paolicelli is executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2005. Laurie has worked in tourism and marketing for twenty-five years, having served in leadership roles in Houston and California convention and visitor bureaus. She is a native of the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Communications from the University Wisconsin-Superior and graduate certification in Technology In Marketing from the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocalReporter.press

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