BY JOE JOHNSONJULY 16, 2019 04:00 PM, UPDATED JULY 16, 2019 08:09
An experiment that’s been years in the making soon will transform land in downtown Durham into 82 affordable apartments.
City leaders, local investors and affordable-housing advocates broke ground Tuesday morning on the Willard Street Apartments.
The mixed-use development, which initially was called the Jackson-Pettigrew project, will rise on unused city-owned property next to the Durham Station Transportation Center on Pettigrew Street.
It’s a first-of-its-kind partnership in affordable housing that city leaders hope to replicate, said Mayor Steve Schewel. Planning for it began under former Mayor Bill Bell.
The apartment complex will fill a 1.25 acre, L-shaped piece of land the city obtained when it bought property for the Durham Station more than a decade ago.
The six-story building, which includes a two-level parking deck, four floors of apartments and commercial space, will face Willard Street. A future second phase could face Jackson Street.
The Willard Street Apartments will be Durham’s attempt to keep downtown affordable for some residents, Schewel said.
“As a city and as a community, we’re putting a stake in the ground,” Schewel said. “We are making it clear that we are committed to ensuring Durham remains a community for people of all incomes and backgrounds.”
The development was envisioned more than five years ago when Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) and others began asking for an inventory city-owned properties in walking distance of bus stops where affordable housing could be built. Willard Street was the location chosen for the first development.
Making the Willard Street Apartments mixed-use made it more attractive to Durham CAN’s Herbert Davis, senior pastor at Nehemiah Christian Church downtown.
“A development like this doesn’t have the stigma of other public housing,” he said. “We need more affordable housing in Durham, and this moves us in that direction.”
But it also made the development more difficult to finance, said Self-Help Credit Union Vice-President Tucker Bartlett. Self-Help is undertaking the ownership of the commercial space in the development, he said.
“An apartment building has straight-forward financing,” he said. “A development like this creates a more complex financing plan, but we were able to make it happen. We had to be innovative.”
Part of that was financing the commercial and residential separately, he said.
The Willard Street Apartments will cost about $21 million, project leaders say.
The city is donating the land for the development, which has an appraised value of $2.8 million, and will chip in an additional $3.6 million, The News & Observer previously reported. Duke University and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation committed to providing a $2.5 million to $3 million grant toward the project. The city also received tax credits, which are expected to create $9 million worth of equity toward the total development cost.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development describes the tax credit as “the most important resource for creating affordable housing in the United States today.”
The one- and two-bedroom apartments will be available for people who earn 60% or less of the area median income, or AMI, which for Durham is $28,313 for one person, $32,363 for two people and $40,425 for a four-person household. Twenty-one units will be offered to people making up to 30% of the AMI.
Durham County is following the city’s lead. It intends to construct affordable housing on two county-owned parking lots. County leaders announced their partnership with private developers to construct 355 affordable housing buildings on the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street. Construction could begin in late 2020 with completion about two years later.
Nearly a third of all households in Durham County spend more than 30% of their income on housing and utilities, according to the N.C. Housing Coalition. Among renters, it’s almost half.
Construction on the Willard Street Apartments will last about 18 months, with completion expected by the end of 2020, project leaders said.
The News & Observer ~ Durham County seeks affordable housing downtown. Here’s what’s coming to Main Street.
BY JOE JOHNSONJULY 11, 2019 12:53 PM,
Dionne Nelson has spent her career building affordable and mixed-income communities, she says.
On Monday, the Durham County commissioners picked Nelson’s firm, Charlotte-based Laurel Street Residential Living, to turn two county-owned parking lots in downtown Durham into mixed-used developments with hundreds of affordable-housing units.
“The growth of Durham and in many respects, the transformation of Durham is very attractive,” said Nelson, the company’s president and chief executive officer.
“There seems to be great alignment and support around affordable- and mixed-income housing,” she said. “And I think that’s a rare attribute for us to find in a city.”
The project comes amid a downtown housing boom.
Years ago surface parking lots typically became parking decks to meet growing demand. Today people want to live, work, shop and park, if they have a car, in one place. The county’s plans for the parking lots in the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street reflect this trend.
“I think what happened in Durham is the commissioners realized they had an opportunity to think about it differently,” Nelson said. “And they were willing to do that. So that makes it exciting and different. I think the transformation of East Main is a rare opportunity that has the potential to really change the downtown dynamic.”
Commissioners Chairwoman Wendy Jacobs agreed.
“This is a monumental project for Durham County and our community because we’ve never done anything like this before,” she said.
rel Street has built 26 communities with affordable homes in Charlotte, Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury and Winston-Salem as well as in Rome, Georgia, and Richmond, Virginia, said company vice president Lee Cochran.
Nelson started the company in 2011 after working at Crosland where she oversaw affordable-housing development and operations.
Commissioners Heidi Carter and James Hill said they were impressed by the diversity of Nelson’s company.
“The diversity is really inspiring, and that’s what we want to be fostering,” Carter said. “We excited about working with an African American, female-owned business.”
Nearly a third of all households in Durham County spend more than 30% of their income on housing and utilities, according to the N.C. Housing Coalition. Among renters, it’s almost half.
Jacobs said she expects public employees like first responders, librarians and social workers as well as those who use housing vouchers to live in the East Main Street project.
The affordable units will be offered to people who make up to 80% of the area median income, which for Durham is $37,750 for one person, $43,150 for two people and $53,900 for a four-person household. Units also will be offered to people making up to 30% and 60% of the AMI.
Housing advocates like Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) have pushed city and county leaders for years to use downtown land for affordable housing.
About seven months ago, commissioners voted to make affordable housing part of the East Main Street properties’ redevelopment plan. Then came retail.
The proposals presented by the three companies vying for the partnership agreement with the county all included a retail element.
MORE THAN PLANNED
The county had approved including 277 affordable units in a total 437 apartments slated for the paring lot sites, The News & Observer previously reported. But Laurel Street’s plan calls for 305 affordable units in two buildings, as well as 250 market-rate apartments in another building at 500 E. Main St., developed by ZOM Living.
Cochran said they added the extra apartments by reconfiguring the units around three sides of the parking garage at the 300 building rather than having them only on two sides. This building will have 105 affordable units. Another building on the 500 block will contain 200 affordable units.
All the units will meet the size requirements prescribed for affordable housing to get the tax credits and financing for the development, he said.
Studio apartments will be 609 square feet with rents ranging from $609 to $1,071. One bedrooms will be 666 square feet with rents ranging $735 to $1,143.
Two bedrooms will be 918 square feet with rents ranging from $859 to $1,368. Three bedrooms will be 1,248 square feet with rents ranging from $1,176 to $1,578, the proposal says.
County Manager Wendell Davis will negotiate a memorandum of understanding with Laurel Street.
The company already plans a possible grocery store and daycare. A forum in August will ask the public what else should be in the project.
“This is a wonderful opportunity if we can get it right,” Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said. “It will activate Main Street and score a home run for us.”
Planning will continue for the next year with construction tentatively set to begin in late 2020, according to county staff.
|Published Monday, July 1, 2019|
by Freda Freeman, Correspondent
DURHAM – Standing in front of the old police headquarters on West Chapel Hill Street, residents implored city officials to use the site for affordable housing. They asked city leaders to help make downtown “socially, culturally, and economically diverse.”
Members of more than 30 churches, community organizations, and neighborhoods associated with Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) urged the city to build at least 80 units of affordable housing on the city-owned property, which is considered a gateway to downtown.
The press conference was held on Thursday because Friday was the deadline for developers to submit proposals to the City Council for the redevelopment of the four-acre site. Also, Durham County Commissioners are in the process of interviewing developers for the development of 300 and 500 East Main Street.
Kicking off the rally, Herbert Reynolds Davis, pastor of Nehemiah Church, said: “Not only can our governments demand a certain number of affordable housing units at each of these sites, they can make sure the developers contracted have the best interest of the community. This means making the properties affordable to families for as long as possible, making sure they invest in amenities such as child care, contract women/minorities, as well as hiring local residents, or even returning citizens, all while paying a living wage of at least $15 per hour.”
Davis added that it is important for the developers to work closely with the Durham Housing Authority to ensure housing for residents at or below 30 percent of the area median income. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development defines housing as affordable if the rent is 30 percent or less of a tenant’s income. Davis also said development of the properties should align with the massive redevelopment of public housing that the DHA will undertake over the next 10 years.
Wilbert Pipkin, 67, said he spent 36 years of his life in and out of prison. He said each time he was released, he never received any help reentering society. Now a member of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, Pipkin said he was there to speak for affordable housing, a livable wage, and jobs for people of color, including those with criminal records.
“When we come out of prison, they don’t give us a shot at it at all. That’s why we keep going back and forth,” he said. “I want to do something that can help the people. I want to do something that can help the prisoners. We need to do something that will enable our community to truly be a community for all people.”
Bertha Bradley, who grew up in the West End, said the main reason she has a place to live is because of affordable housing owned by the Durham Community Land Trust. However, she said other longtime residents have been forced out of their homes because of gentrification and Durham’s failure to address the affordable housing crisis.
“Yes, it is a crisis and a shame that in a city like ours, the poor are unwelcomed. Progress should not come at such a great expense that it fails to consider real people and real community,” Bradley said. “It’s important to people like me that this project, here at the police station, be able to have at least 80 affordable housing units. Affordable housing is a crisis that needs a solution.”
The Rev. Tanya Johnson, of Abundant Hope Christian Church, recalled growing up in Durham, but said now she feels more like a tourist than a resident. “We don’t recognize this Durham as we are being farther pushed out. What I found out is we can spend our money downtown, they will accept our money, but won’t let us live downtown, so I say to the mayor, to the City Council, please keep your promises where people of color can work, have transportation, eat, laugh, and, at the end of the night, walk home like everybody else that’s living downtown,” she said.
Cullen McKenney, of Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, said when his congregants look across the street at the site, they want to see a building that reflects all of Durham.
“We want this land to reflect the values that we are proud of as a community. We want this land, this gateway into the heart of Durham, to reflect values like diversity and equity,” he said.
The Rev. Jonah Kendall, of Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church, said he and neighboring churches have been working with Durham CAN to ensure the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street be used for at least 300 units of affordable housing. Kendall asked the commissioners to choose a developer that not only has experience developing large projects but one that will invest in Durham and its residents. He also asked that the developers work with the DHA to reserve some of the units for residents with housing subsidy vouchers.
County Commissioner Wendy Jacobs assured the residents that their concerns had been heard.
“What we heard from everyone was No. 1, affordable housing; No. 2, activate East Main Street; No. 3, to have a day care center; and No. 4, opportunities for minority and local businesses. That is what we put in our RFQ (Request for Quote). What we’re hearing is 300 minimum affordable units down to 20 percent AMI; partnering with groups like Urban Ministries to provide supportive and transitional housing; and a pipeline for jobs for people who need them the most, including returning citizens who want to work,” she said.
The County Commissioners received proposals from 65 developers across the country to develop the Main Street properties. The commissioners narrowed the field down to three and will begin meeting with them next week to hear their proposals.
If you make around $38,000 or less, you could soon be able to live near a planned light rail stop in downtown Durham.
The Durham County commissioners agreed Tuesday night to put affordable and market-rate apartments on county land on the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street.
“You have the opportunity to make sure that people of color believe they belong a little bit more downtown,” Pastor Psiyina Davis of Nehemiah Christian Center and Durham CAN told the commissioners before their vote.
“Without your help, downtown will continue to be more white and affluent,” she said.
Durham CAN (Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods) has pushed city and county leaders for years to use downtown land for affordable housing, especially near proposed light-rail stops.
The commissioners voted unanimously for the plan.
The county owns what are now two big surface parking lots on the 300 and 500 blocks. While both sites will include parking decks for county employees, the plan approved Tuesday also includes 437 apartments between them, with 277 to be designated affordable for those who make 80 percent or less of the area median income.
Eighty percent of area median income for Durham is $37,750 for one person, $43,150 for two people and $53,900 for a four-person household.
Shane Ryan of the Durham branch of the Democratic Socialists of America said that in a “time of rapid gentrification in Durham,” the new housing represented a chance for county leaders to do something positive.
Commissioner Ellen Reckhow said the location close to the planned Dillard Street light rail stop will also give future residents easy access to N.C. Central University, Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill.
The Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit and Durham CAN spent months — and in some cases years — pushing the county to redevelop the land into more than just parking.
Jim Svara spoke on behalf of both groups Tuesday night. He called it a “momentous contribution to downtown” that would expand commercial activity and increase vibrancy on East Main Street.
“The 277 households in Durham will have living costs that are truly affordable,” Svara said.
The parking lots are near the Durham County Human Services building, the new Durham Police Department headquarters, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, First Presbyterian Church and Oldham Towers and Liberty Street public housing neighborhoods.
The Rev. Mindy Douglas, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, said the 300 block lot is between First Presbyterian and St. Philip’s and that both churches have wanted affordable housing there since 2015.
The development plan will “continue to make downtown East Main an inclusive, welcoming community,” Douglas said.
Commissioner James Hill called it housing for the working class.
“The people that take care of us downtown should also be able to afford to live downtown,” he said. “I look forward to seeing our new neighbors in downtown Durham.”
Commissioners Chair Wendy Jacobs said she expects the potential new residents to be first responders, librarians and social workers as well as those who use housing vouchers.
Plans were designed and researched by the Development Finance Initiative of the UNC School of Government. Developer plans will be accepted starting in January, and one picked by late spring. The first of the projects could break ground in late 2020.
Indy Week – Durham Commissioners Will Soon Decide How Much Affordable Housing to Put on Two Downtown Sites
In weighing their options for how to redevelop two county-owned parking lots on Main Street, county commissioners are leaning toward a plan that would include 277 units of affordable housing.
Commissioners discussed the two options for redeveloping lots on the 300 and 500 blocks of East Main Street during a work session Monday morning.
Plan A includes a total of 492 residential units, 180 of which would be affordable to households earning 30 to 80 percent of the area median income; 55,500-square-feet of commercial space and as many as 1,970 parking spaces across both sites. In that concept, the affordable housing units would cost the county about $4 million to $5 million.
Plan B includes 437 residential units, 277 of which would be affordable to housing earning 30 to 80 percent of the area median income; 34,700-square-feet of commercial space; and as many as 1,933 parking spaces across the two properties. Affordable housing under plan B would require a county subsidy of about $8 to $9 million.
(Thirty percent of the area median income is about $22,000 for a family of four. Eighty percent is about $58,000).
Check out more details in the document below:
With the disclaimer that they want to hear public input at the November 13 meeting where they are expected to vote on the matter, four of five commissioners stated their support for plan B. The fifth — commissioner Brenda Howerton — didn’t voice support or opposition.
The affordable housing costs come on top of what it would cost to build parking decks on both sites. Doug Carter, with DEC Associates and a financial adviser on the project, said the county would issue long-term debt to build the decks, and that’s already been factored into future debt modeling.
“Our firm believes the private development plan is sound, that the addition of housing (especially affordable) is highly warranted and the estimated County cost is currently affordable,” Carter said in his presentation to the board.
Typically, said Sarah Odio, project manager with the University of North Carolina School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative, developments built with tax credits, like these would be, are affordable for fifteen to thirty years, at which point they need renovations – and likely more tax credits in order to make them. A ground lease could ensure the housing remains affordable into the future, she said.
Once a plan is selected, the county will get to work writing a solicitation for development partners and the criteria by which is will select one or more development partners.
Peri Manns, deputy director of the county’s Engineering and Environmental Services department, said the work would likely happen in phases because county employees and the public use both parking lots. Odio said “optimistically” ground could be broken two years from now.
The county aims to get the solicitation out in January, with an April deadline for developers to apply, and partner selection in summer 2019.
The Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit and Durham CAN — which have been successful advocates for affordable housing in Durham — support plan B because it includes more affordable housing, more units available to lower incomes, and more units that can house families. A representative from the local Democratic Socialists of America branch also spoke in support of that option during Monday’s meeting.
Public input so far shows a preference for the plan also favored by commissioners.
Jim Svara, with the Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit, analyzed the results of surveys completed online or during three public input meetings about the proposals. Out of 129 surveys, 71 percent preferred plan B.
Commissioner Heidi Carter says the board is undertaking “what feels like a really earthshaking decision for our community.” Either project would significantly increase housing available to low-wealth families downtown and along the planned Durham-Orange Light Rail line.
Currently, nearly six hundred people live in Durham Housing Authority properties in the downtown area, although the agency is planning a full-scale redevelopment that will likely increase the number of downtown units.
A city-backed project at the intersection of Jackson and Willard streets will include eighty-two units of affordable housing. The City Council has also said affordable housing is its top priority for how the current Durham Police Department property should be used when the agency finishes moving into its new headquarters.
The vote is set to be held during the county commissioners’ November 13 meeting, which begins at seven p.m.