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.