Work at Rolling Hills continues, despite delays

Apr. 04, 2013 @ 07:33 PM

Weather and other issues have work on the Rolling Hills redevelopment running behind schedule, but things are coming together for a related project in the adjoining Southside neighborhood, city officials say.

Thanks to the delays, only 93 of the 132 rental units the city and a St. Louis developer are building at Rolling Hills are likely to be ready at year’s end, Community Development Director Reginald Johnson told the City Council on Thursday.

Developer McCormack Baron Salazar has to have at least 80 units for low- and moderate-income renters ready by Dec. 31 to comply with conditions set by the N.C. Housing Finance Agency when it funded the project.

McCormack Baron Senior Vice President Karl Schlachter said he’s “100 percent” confident that the firm can deliver 93 units by the deadline, now that it’s sorted out the handling of some hazard-laced fill that contractors have dug out of the site.

State regulators have given the firm permission to put it elsewhere on the site and cover it, rather than insisting on its outright removal.

The fix will add $300,000 to the $20.8 million project’s site-preparation costs, Johnson said, adding that off-site disposal could easily have cost about $750,000.

As for the weather, contractors have logged 63 days’ worth of rain delays, Johnson said, aptly enough as the leaden early April skies above downtown Durham were producing a mixture of rain and sleet.

The news drew mixed reactions from the council, as the fact only 70 percent of the units may be complete by year’s end means there’s less assurance of a throughout-the-project mix of low- and moderate-income renters with those who will pay market rate.

Councilman Eugene Brown, a longtime critic of the project, said that he’s “distressed at what I call the segregation” by income that could result.

But Mayor Bill Bell, the project’s chief supporter, said he’s “not surprised” about the soil problems and said what matters to him is that “the end result is a quality project for whoever lives there.”

In Southside, meanwhile, Johnson said the city’s close to being ready to green-light what could become up to 48 new, owner-occupied homes.

It has three different companies lined up to prepare homes sites and actually build houses, with the council scheduled to approve those contracts on April 15.

Presuming it does, officials figure they can on May 1 tell contractors to start work, with an eye toward houses actually starting to go up in mid-August, Johnson said.

Duke University is helping recruit potential buyers for the houses. A Duke vice president, Phail Wynn, said 80 campus employees have signaled interest and are vying for up to 15 slots in a school-offered subsidy program.

The Duke funding – $10,000 for each accepted participant – would combine with an assortment of subsidies from the city and the N.C. Housing Finance Agency designed to make the houses affordable to families that make as little as 60 percent of the area’s median income.

Each buyer’s financing will be different, but someone qualifying for the full package of subsidies could wind up paying $754 a month for a house selling for $175,000.