Published: Jul 17, 2012 02:40 PM
Modified: Jul 17, 2012 05:11 PM
DURHAM - At the controls of a heavy-duty excavator, Mayor Bill Bell moved a scoop of dirt Tuesday morning to ceremonially start the long-awaited Southside redevelopment.
“He caught on real quickly,” said Danny Hoyle, project manager with D.H. Griffin Infrastructure, who coached the mayor as he raised the scoop from a pre-dug hole, moved it several feet to the right and dumped it on the ground.
“After almost 10 years and countless meetings, many discussions, the deliberations and planning are over,” said Bell.
The earth moving took place after remarks by Bell and other dignitaries, at a spot on the former Rolling Hills site overlooking downtown Durham. It officially began site preparation for revitalizing a long-blighted area just across the Durham Freeway from downtown.
“Now we’re actually going to get going,” said Karl Schlachter, vice president of project developer McCormack Baron Salazar, a St. Louis firm with a record of successful inner-city revitalizations.
Over the next five years, Durham plans to invest more than $28 million in the project, which has an estimated total cost of about $48 million. Project plans cover 125 acres that was once the heart of Hayti, the city’s original black residential and business district. Most of Hayti was demolished by freeway construction and urban renewal in the 1960s and ’70s.
“We can’t bring back the old Hayti neighborhood,” Bell said, “but we can bring back some of that vitality.”
The project’s first phase includes a 132-unit apartment complex, with 80 units priced to be “affordable” for households below the poverty line. Thirteen of the apartments are designed as “live-work” units, where residents could operate a home business.
The entire complex, with community center, playground and swimming pool, must be finished by the end of 2013 to meet a funding deadline, said Reginald Johnson, the city’s interim community development director.
The apartments will be going up in what is now called “Southside East,” a 20-acre tract where two previous developers have tried and failed to build a subdivision since 1985. The city repossessed the property in 2003 after the second developer failed to finish work.
In “Southside West,” between South Roxboro Street and the American Tobacco Trail, Phase 1 includes 45 new and rehabilitated houses for low-income owner occupants. Along with bricks and mortar, the revitalization plan involves social services for Southside residents to relieve the unemployment, ill health, poverty and crime that plague the area.
“This symbolizes a long wait,” said Marie Hunter, president of the Southside Neighborhood Association. “It’s a change coming. Southside is a community where we are growing ourselves, doing things to better ourselves.”