Planning Commission endorses Self-Help project

Jul. 09, 2013 @ 07:42 PM

A redevelopment effort targeting the corner of West Chapel Hill and Kent streets picked up an endorsement Tuesday from the Durham Planning Commission.

The advisory board on 12-0 votes recommended that the City Council approve policy and zoning changes that would allow the Self-Help credit union to erect a 50,000 square foot that could mix retail space, offices and homes.

It is the prospective future home of the Durham Central Market, a cooperative grocery modeled on Carrboro’s Weaver Street Market.

Planning Commission members agreed that the project, called Kent Corner, could boost the fortunes of a part of Durham that neighborhood and business leaders believe is ripe for new investment.

“This area has been, as we all know, needing what’s being proposed here for a long time,” county delegate Charlie Gibbs said. “Everything else has been taking place on the other end of Main Street. This is going to bring it up to a standard that I think will not only benefit this community, but [make it] another gateway into downtown.”

Kent Corner in the months leading up to Tuesday’s nonbinding has been something of a controversial project.

Although key neighborhood groups have endorsed it, a few residents voiced objections, centered on whether the project by its scale and design would forestall follow-on redevelopment in the area.

Self-Help’s plan, among other things, relies on the credit union acquiring from the city what is now a small parking lot.

One critic of the project, David Anthony, has been bidding against Self-Help in the auction that the city is conducting to set the price of the property. General Services Director Joel Reitzer said the credit union had submitted the higher bid as of this week.

But another critic of project, Larissa Oryshkevich, told commission members that she and other members of an ad-hoc citizens group called the Kent Corner Task Force are now supporting Self-Help’s zoning request.

The credit union has been willing to work with residents who want the project to be “neighborhood friendly and … a precedent for the type of development we’d like to see,” she said.

Frank Stasio, a member of and spokesman for Durham Central Market’s board of directors, said that the market has lined up $1.2 million of the financing it needs to locate in Kent Corner and believes it will obtain the rest soon. He did not say exactly how much the market needs.

The rezoning application, however, does not bind Self-Help to include the market in the project, said Amy Wolff, a planner in the City/County Planning Department.

Planning Director Steve Medlin said after the vote that the application is on track to reach the City Council late in August or in September.