Fayette Place neighbor: 'It’s just a vacant hole'
The Durham Housing Authority is taking steps to reacquire 20 acres of overgrown land and crumbling foundations for future affordable housing.
The authority issued a default notice last year to Philadelphia-based Campus Apartments, which had bought the Fayette Place property in 2007 with a promise to build affordable housing for N. C. Central University students.
The purchase agreement let the Durham Housing Authority (DHA) repurchase the property if Campus Apartments failed to have at least 168 beds rented by NCCU students or low-income individuals.
The repurchase option must be exercised by August 6.
Campus Apartments representatives didn’t respond in writing to the notice, said DHA Chief Executive Officer Anthony Scott, but the company indicated in conversations it didn’t have any plans to develop the property.
Under the agreement, DHA can acquire the property for the purchase price or a recent appraised value, whichever is higher. A recent appraisal valued the property at less than the $4 million the company paid, Scott said. Company officials indicated they plan to require the higher value, Scott said.
DHA officials are also working with the city to identify funds to purchase the property, which is off Fayetteville Street, a block from the Stanford L. Warren Branch of the Durham County Library.
At a Monday night Durham Congregations, Associations & Neighborhoods meeting, five of the six City Council members present agreed to support repurchasing the project. Mayor Bill Bell wasn’t able to attend.
Councilman Eddie Davis was uncomfortable making such a commitment at the meeting, he said. He thinks the property needs to be back under local control, he said, but wasn’t prepared to give the straight yes or no answer that Durham CAN wanted.
“I just need to have more information to deal with not only that request but other (budget) requests from the Durham Housing Authority,” he said.
At the meeting, Durham CAN also planned to ask Campus Apartments to donate the property, but a company representative didn’t attend.
Campus Apartments issued a statement that was very similar to the one it issued after Durham CAN held a rally at the property in July.
“When we purchased the property, we had every intention to develop affordable student housing in partnership with N. C. Central University; however, the original plan did not come to fruition,” the statement says. “Campus Apartments then made a significant investment to remove the dilapidated structures and secure the property. We understand the community’s desire to develop the property and appreciate local community feedback.”
City Councilman Steve Schewel, the council’s liaison on the DHA board, is confident the city will help DHA, if necessary, to make the purchase, he said.
Once the property is acquired, surrounding neighborhoods and other members of the community will be involved in the process to determined what will happen to the property.
“Those folks want to be part of the discussion and need to be part of the discussion,” Schewel said.
City and DHA officials say the project will involve affordable housing, but it’s too soon to say how or when the property would be redeveloped.
“The development of Fayette Place has to be thought of in concert with the redevelopment of the other large housing authority existing communities,” Schewel said.
City Manager Tom Bonfield said the issue will likely come before the City Council at the end of May or June. Specifics haven’t been discussed, but he expects the city will be asked to cover the entire purchase price. The money would most likely come from the city’s general fund balance.
It’s too soon to say whether the city would loan or grant DHA the money, but the city wants to be a partnership in the redevelopment, Bonfield said.
“The big thing is not missing this window of returning the property to public control,” he said.
History of Fayette Place
For about 35 years, the property housed the 200-unit Fayetteville Street public housing complex. In the early 2000s, the Durham Housing Authority started to convert the property into Fayette Place, a low-income housing development funded with tax credits. The development never happened.
In 2007, Campus Apartments agreed to pay the DHA $4 million for Fayette Place. Part of the agreement allowed DHA to repurchase the property if Campus Apartments failed to rent at least 168 beds to N.C. Central University students or provide housing for low-income individuals.
The property was never developed.