NEWS N & O-Durham County moving forward with downtown parking decks with affordable housingSeptember 13, 2016 INDY-Durham City Council Asserts Its Commitment to Downtown Affordable Housing—In About Four YearsSeptember 13, 2016 Teaching and practicing democracy When would you like this donation to recur? Monthly Biweely weekly Enter your monthly donation $ Your CAN member institution: N & O-Durham County moving forward with downtown parking decks with affordable housing The News & Observer Durham County moving forward with downtown parking decks with affordable housing The red circles on this Durham County map show the areas for proposed parking decks. Courtesy of Durham County BY VIRGINIA BRIDGES email@example.com Durham, September 13, 2016 Durham County leaders are moving forward with a plan to establish public-private partnerships to build two downtown parking decks that would include affordable housing and retail space. County commissioners unanimously voted Monday night to request qualifications from companies interested in partnering with the county to build the mixed-use projects on the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street. The project on the 300 block would be built on the existing parking lot across the street from the Durham Housing Authority and between Main and Liberty streets. The project on the 500 block would be built on the existing lot across from the county’s Human Services Complex. The community coalition Durham Congregations, Associations, and Neighborhoods has been pushing for developments that include affordable housing on the properties. The Monday night vote allows county officials to gauge interest in the proposal and process, which will have to include figuring out the structure of the private and public partnership and exploring construction possibilities on the two county lots. Jay Gibson, the county’s director of Engineering and Environmental Services, said downtown county employees were using 91 percent of their 1,298 spaces in 2015. An ideal usage rate would be 75 to 80 percent, Gibson said. To address future needs and sustain a goal of an 85 percent utilization rate, the county would need to increase its parking spaces by 457 by 2025 and 850 spaces by 2035. The decks are also needed to address a general parking crunch downtown and to accommodate projects such as the renovation of the former judicial building and the renovation and expansion of the main library downtown. The library’s expansion could include an outdoor amphitheater, which could consume some of the existing parking spaces. The city is also exploring incorporating affordable housing in a planned parking deck to be built on an existing surface parking lot along West Morgan Street. Gibson suggested the county move forward first with a request for qualifications for the parking deck on the 300 block of East Main Street, which is closer to the library and the judicial building. That parking deck could fit about 900 spaces, Gibson said. However, Gibson recommended moving forward with a 600- to 800-space deck and a yet-to-be determined amount of space for affordable housing and ground-floor retail. Some commissioners criticized the presentation’s emphasis on parking spaces, while not giving specifics on affordable housing. Commissioner Wendy Jacobs pointed out that nearly two-thirds of Durham County employees are considered low-income households. “Many of us have made it very clear for a long time that we were concerned about incorporating housing in this parking lot as well as the other one,” Jacobs said. “I am really surprised that the staff presentation was focused on parking.” County Manager Wendell Davis said staff is considering housing and retail, but the county’s focus is providing enough parking for its downtown facilities. In November, Charlotte-based CitiSculpt presented a plan with a roughly 900-space parking deck, affordable housing, and retail and office space on the lot that currently has about 400 spaces between the Human Services Complex and the future headquarters of the Durham Police Department. Gibson’s presentation Monday focused on the lot on the 300 block of East Main, but commissioners voted to seek requests for qualifications on both lots. The process could take about three months. The commissioners will have to approval the final contract. Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/community/durham-news/article101880927.html#storylink=cpy INDY-Durham City Council Asserts Its Commitment to Downtown Affordable Housing—In About Four Years INDY “Durham City Council Asserts Its Commitment to Downtown Affordable Housing—In About Four Years By Lauren Horsch – Sept 13, 2016 It’s been over a year since the group Durham CAN pinpointed a nearly two-acre parcel of ripe-for-development land on Jackson Street as an opportunity to build affordable housing. Last year, Self-Help Credit Union told the city council it would be interested in helping create a mixed-income development, where at least 80 percent of the units on will be available for renters making at or below 60 percent of the area median income. Last September, the council decided not to fast-track the project, saying it wanted its staff to review its options. In November, staff members gave the council three choices: a purely affordable development, mixed-income housing, and market-rate and/or “workforce” housing. The city opted for the mixed-income development—essentially what Self-Help wanted to do. But there hasn’t been much movement since—and, in fact, it could be another four years before those downtown units ever appear, according to a timeline presented to the city council last week. City of Durham Timeline of proposed RFQ for Jackson Street property Members of CAN came to a council work session on Thursday prepared to fight—there was a rumor that the council was going to walk back its commitment to affordable housing on that site—but instead found the council assuring them they had nothing to worry about. “We might not move as fast as some would like us to move, but it’s a commitment,” said Mayor Bill Bell. “Sometimes it does get somewhat irritating when innuendos are made that we are trying to do something less than what we’ve committed to do.” The city is currently preparing to seek bids on the project. The hope is to have a developer with experience with low-income housing tax credits establish a building plan that includes ground-floor retail and can integrate bus and rail transit. As Richard Valzonis, senior project manager with the city’s Department of Community Development, notes, this federal LIHTC program is competitive—especially because Durham County competes against other countries facing affordable housing crises, including Wake, Buncombe, and Mecklenburg. Municipalities first have to seek a partner—for instance, Self-Help—but even after that, those applications aren’t always accepted. In 2015, Durham County had two projects accepted by the N.C. Housing Finance Agency, which administers the LIHTC program. But 2016 had none. That’s part of the reason the Jackson Street project will take so long to unfurl. CAN has also identified multiple tracts of land owned by the city and Durham County for affordable housing downtown, including parking lots on East Main Street. Conversations on those have seemingly stalled, but this week county commissioners will take the issue up again. On Monday night the Durham County Board of Commissioners voted to pitch in county-owned land for the prospect of affordable housing. Parking lots on 300 block of East Main Street and the large Health and Human Services parking lot on the 500 block of East Main street were offered up for an RFQ process to build structured parking that included directives to determine the feasibility and inclusion of retail and affordable housing.