Top 10 stories of 2012: No. 8

City’s third attempt at Rolling Hills project brings in new developer
Dec. 23, 2012 @ 10:37 PM

After years of talk and planning, 2012 saw the city finally launch its third attempt to redevelop the Rolling Hills neighborhood near downtown off Lakewood Avenue.

City Council members green-lighted the development in June, and contractors formally broke ground on the project’s first phase in July. Workers have since prepped the site for the eventual construction of 132 rental units.
The initial development is costing the city $20.8 million – money that includes allocations from a so-called “penny for housing” property tax increase the council also approved in June.
Mayor Bill Bell at the groundbreaking called the project “a giant step forward for neighborhood revitalization” in Durham, and especially for the former Hayti area.
The two previous attempts at redeveloping the city were spearheaded by local nonprofits, and came to grief without delivering anything close to what their sponsors had hoped.
This time around, the city opted to work with an out-of-town company, McCormack Baron Salazar, that has a long history of successfully redeveloping low-cost housing.
The choice of the St. Louis-based firm was controversial among local housing groups and the shopping-center owners who spearheaded the second failed attempt to build Rolling Hills, Denise and Larry Hester.
But city leaders insisted that for project to be successful, it needed the hand of, as Councilman Steve Schewel called it, “a premier developer.”
Housing advocates over the years have also criticized officials for their willingness to make Rolling Hills a “mixed-income” project that includes some market-rate units. They preferred to see a greater emphasis on housing for the poor.
The complaints prompted Schewel and the City Council to add a rental component to what was initially supposed to the owner-occupied sidekick to Rolling Hills, the redevelopment of the adjoining Southside neighborhood.

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