I'm very pro-density and pro-walkability (hence my presence here), and generally like to see projects that move us toward this. But it's undeniable that this one will deal a blow to what's left of Hayti (which is already reeling from the Fayette Place outcome) and to anyone who shops at Food World and neighboring stores (hard to imagine the new retail shops will serve the same market). I hope (most likely in vain) that there can be some conversation between the developer and the community regarding how this space could remain at least somewhat useful to the community to which it has long belonged. <end moralizing screed here>
Wow, well Durham has really arrived for better or worse folks. Sterling Bay has built some really impressive projects in Chicago but this would be a big leap into a new market.
Edited to add: Sterling Bay is partnering with Austin Lawrence on a proposal to develop the commercial piece of the old police HQ project. So they have some insight into the market and have clearly been doing some substantial homework here.
147 in the renderings really minimizes the impact this potentially mid-high density development could have on our city's walkability, sustainability, and equitability. Seems like a great opportunity to convert 147 into a boulevard and give back land to the black community it was taken from.
Definitely mixed emotions here. I hope Food World in particular can continue on somewhere nearby. It is one of the few grocery stores near downtown (and certainly one of the most affordable). It also has a really interesting, eclectic selection of food from a variety of different cultures. All of that said, that shopping center is probably towards the end of its useful life. This would be one of the biggest projects for expanding the footprint of downtown.
I definitely support a more ambitious project at Northgate. Maybe they have been working toward that, who knows. Ultimately one limiting factor appears to be the need to re-zone the property to build higher. The community group has already been very aggressive in speaking out against that. They also have the optionality of expanding the project in future phases even if they don’t have definite plans right now. The existing 1 story retail stretch at the edge of the property or the parking deck that they plan to leave near the Guess/Club intersection could easily be redeveloped at a later date.
I've posted my mixed feelings on a couple other forums so I'll just restate and expand on them here.
Heritage Square was always a grotesque replacement for the vibrant neighborhood that used to exist here. It was essentially conceived as an attempt to incubate black-owned businesses to replace Hayti's once thriving Fayetteville and Pettigrew St. business corridors, but it's failed to do that. Businesses have been short lived, the center was poorly maintained for most of its history, and it's defaulted on its loans. It seems like there's got to be a much better way to serve the community than a characterless strip mall and giant parking lot, so I'm happy to see this redeveloped.
It's also undeniable that the site is brimming with potential. It's located at the intersection of two planned bikeways and in the more far-off future, a potential road diet that could help one day make Fayetteville more pedestrian-friendly and connected to downtown. The strip mall to the south has considered redevelopment into something more urban and dense too. This could be the start of restitching together the urban fabric of this area.
That said, it is absolutely imperative that a redevelopment does not ignore what this site represents. Redevelopments of Heritage Square have been proposed before but were marred by racial politics. Scientific Properties proposed a redevelopment in the mid 2000s, and the response by one planning commission member was that she was "not going to sell her people down the river." The sensitivity is understandable. This shopping center is a reminder of the injustice that the city committed towards the 4000 families and 500 black-owned businesses that were displaced through Urban Renewal. And for that reason, I strongly feel that the right thing to do here is to include a large component of affordable housing and to pledge to lease to minority-owned businesses as part of the retail component. How great would it be if -- rather than just buying out current business owners -- they brought them back in the new development at subsidized rent so that they could actually benefit from the changes to the neighborhood? (Of course that'll never happen, but just thinking idealistically). At the very, very least they should incorporate significant recognition of the history of Hayti. To just plop a life sciences campus catering to the upper-middle class and move on like nothing happened would be a slap in the face. I hope they'll be more thoughtful than that.
I completely agree with the sentiment of this post but I think this absolves the state from their clear responsibility. I hope the developer is sensitive to the site's history and listen's to your suggestions, but the ultimate responsibility for the displacement of the Hayti community is not the developer but instead comes from choices decided by the US and NC state government. That is why I think it is important for us to consider much bigger and bolder proposals like the redevelopment of 147 through downtown by the city and NCDOT (as has been discussed extensively here) and using a lot of proceeds to either compensate historical victims of urban renewal or to try and build a new and vibrant Hayti.
The city of Durham should've been more proactive in shaping the outcome of this site, in a similar manner to the missed opportunity at Northgate. I think if it does not require a rezoning, the city's tools of influencing the project are limited, but Durham could have purchased the land decades ago and retained control over its outcome.
There are fantastic precedents around the continent of sensitive redevelopment of neighborhoods that went through something similar to Hayti. In fact, probably the most well-known professional in this field is based in Durham, at the firm I work at. Zena Howard (best known as project manager for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture) is an architect who's built an expertise in "remembrance design," a design process that responds to inequity and injustice by restoring lost cultural connections and honoring collective memory and history. To give you a concrete example, this is a framework we developed for Hogan's Alley, a historically black neighborhood in Vancouver that was demolished (this is a summary from a 50 page document that was assembled after significant community engagement):
RECOMMENDATIONS: The Hogan’s Alley block will be redeveloped in the coming years as the viaducts are removed and the Northeast False Creek Area Plan is implemented. The programming, planning, and design that is to precede this must honour the story of Hogan’s Alley and embody the spirit of the Black Canadian community who once thrived here. Through these efforts the City can bring about a better understanding of the community’s history, why it was important and how it can play a productive role in the future of Vancouver. In consideration of the proceedings and outcomes from this workshop, the Perkins+Will team offers the following recommendations for the redevelopment of Hogan’s Alley, as well as the next steps necessary to its successful implementation.
The development plan for the Hogan’s Alley portion of the Sub-area 6D should include the following:
• Cultural Centre as a place of gathering, education and empowerment.
• Housing that encourages diversity and is accessible to a broad range of income levels.
• Development framework and scale that supports small minority business enterprises.
• Open space tailored to actively support organized community activities and informal recreation.
• A distinct character and sense of place that celebrates the Hogan’s Alley heritage and is welcoming to all citizens of Vancouver and beyond.
• Programs and infrastructure that support Vancouver’s Black community in outreach to other minority communities and in support of a proactive role in the larger Vancouver community.
These are pretty general goals and the devil is in the details of implementation, but even some kind of guiding framework would go a long way on a site like this. It is possible to have both a life sciences campus and components that are sensitive to the community. And in my view, I think reparations should absolutely be on the table, but that still wouldn't absolve the owner of this site from the responsibility of developing it in a way that recognizes its history. it's not just about compensation. It's about collective memory of the neighborhood and not erasing its identity entirely.
Good to see, even if it's vague. Small footnote: I think WRAL got the sale price wrong. It sold for 4 million in 2007, and the 2019 sale was for $12 million. So the most recent sale of $62 million (if correct) represents a 400% profit in three years. Imagine if the city had got in on this and used the proceeds to fund affordable housing.