City welcomes Southside project homebuyers

Jun. 06, 2014 @ 06:17 PM

With the first actual home sale in the project now a historical fact, city officials and other dignitaries on Friday formally cut the ribbon to Durham’s Southside redevelopment.
The ceremony was for the homeownership phase of the project, what’s to become the 48-house supplement to the rental apartments that are still under construction next door.
“A new day in Southside is finally here,” Mayor Bill Bell said. “We’re already seeing private investments in Southside as a result of the city’s very strategic investments in the neighborhood, and we anticipate a lot more will come.”
Friday’s event came nine days after David Steinbrenner, a staff assistant in Duke University’s Office of Postdoctoral Services, closed on his new house on Fargo Street. He moves in today.
The homeownership end of the project saw city officials and the Self-Help credit union assemble a project site in what was once called the St. Theresa neighborhood. The area had long ago fallen on hard times, many of its houses there showing obvious signs of neglect.
Officials in the Community Development Department, with City Council approval, hired contractors to rework the neighborhood’s infrastructure and build new houses.
Duke University, meanwhile, stepped up with a loan program that’s to supply at least 10 of its employees with a forgivable, $10,000 loan to cover down-payment and closing costs.
“Without that, this wouldn’t even have been possible,” Steinbrenner said of his purchase, admitting that he hadn’t known “how to even make the basics happen” toward buying a home.
The former Duke Divinity School student had only rented housing since moving to Durham from Arizona in 2006.
Duke Vice President Phail Wynn said the university’s participation built on the precedent of its previous work with Self-Help in Durham’s West End area.
Officials have stressed the desire for a mixed-income neighborhood, where residents capable of paying market rate live side by side with those who require considerable subsidy to make a mortgage deal or a rent payment.
To head off complaints about gentrification, they made a point of working with longtime neighborhood residents like Marie Hunter, a Scout Drive resident and the president of the Southside Neighborhood Association.
To Streinbrenner and other buyers, “I’d like to say an official ‘welcome home,’” Hunter said. “For 20 years I have seen these streets look dark. Now I see light.”