Council OKs Self-Help project for west end
A Self-Help credit union project that will bring a cooperative grocery and other businesses to West Chapel Hill Street got a 5-0 endorsement from the City Council on Monday.
Members approved zoning that allows 50,000 square feet of commercial development at the corner of West Chapel Hill and Kent streets. The grocery, Durham Central Market, will be the project’s anchor tenant.
The project had drawn complaints from a few neighbors, but their opposition evaporated prior to the start of Monday’s council meeting.
City/county planners said the neighbors abandoned a formal protest that would otherwise have required supermajority approval of the zoning. The former critics, for their part, said the move followed successful negotiations with Self-Help.
“The things we came up with protected the neighborhood,” said David Anthony, an adjoining property owner who’d argued the project would give Self-Help too much control over future business opportunities in the West Chapel Hill Street corridor.
But most neighborhood groups in the corridor had supported Self-Help’s plan all along. And it was clear from the start of Monday’s hearing the council would approve it.
“Great project, Mr. Mayor,” Councilman Steve Schewel told Mayor Bill Bell as Bell prepared to open the floor for public comment.
“Thanks to Self-Help for stepping forward,” Councilman Eugene Brown added. “This is an area that’s need some assistance from both the public and private sector. This will be a real boon to the neighborhood.”
City officials have long sought to encourage redevelopment in the West Chapel Hill Street corridor. The area links downtown and Duke University, but business has lagged there for decades.
The Office of Economic and Workforce Development last decade listed the corridor as one of five areas of Durham that merit streetscape upgrades. Nearby, public- and private-sector initiatives have led to the opening of two community centers.
The worry about closing off future business opportunities comes because it’s clear there’s redevelopment momentum nearby, particularly around the Durham Police Department’s headquarters.
A developer is currently building a new apartment complex at the corner of West Chapel Hill and Gregson streets. The police headquarters, on the other side of Gregson, is also a redevelopment prospect because the city is planning its replacement.
Kent Corner thanks to its location should “be a catalyst for other improvements in the corridor,” said Geoff Durham, president of Downtown Durham Inc.
Anthony and other skeptics had worried Kent Corner will monopolize the available parking at the West Chapel Hill/Kent crossroads.
But Self-Help has promised to be “a friendly neighbor” when it comes to arranging parking for other businesses that seek to set up shop there, said Larissa Oryshkevich, spokeswoman for an ad-hoc citizens group called the Kent Corner Task Force that negotiated with the credit union.
Anthony earlier this year felt strongly enough that he entered the bidding against Self-Help for a piece of city property off West Chapel Hill Street that will become part of the project.
His bids forced the credit union to raise its $37,000 initial offer to the city. The credit union wound up having to offer $120,000 for the property, Deputy City Manager Bo Ferguson said.
Monday’s vote ended up a 5-0 because Councilman Howard Clement was absent and Councilman Don Moffitt recused himself. Moffitt is the Durham Central Market’s project manager.