New condos to flank Durham Farmers' Market | Soapboxer

New condos to flank Durham Farmers' Market

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If you're a mapping, planning, urban policy geek—or if you care about the future of Durham—you need to bookmark two sites: the city planning department's development tracker and Durham Neighborhood Compass.

The tracker shows what's being proposed where throughout Durham, which, considering Wednesday's lengthy affordable housing discussion at City Hall, is important to follow. The Joint City-County Planning Committee discussed how to create and preserve affordable housing within a half-mile of each of the 11 proposed light-rail stations. This stipulation is necessary not only for Durham residents who rely on public transit to get around—or like me, prefer it—but also for the city to qualify for federal funding for the project.

Meanwhile, the compass gives you a lot of demographic and quality-of-life data (income, race, percentage of dwellings with minimum code violations, etc.), which also factors into the affordable housing discussion. For example, the city has calculated the affordable "standard" housing (read: these apartments and houses are not shitholes), but there is likely even more "affordable" housing that is more akin to slums. So while we're preserving affordable housing, we should also crack down on the slumlords.

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In terms of new developments, I looked at proposed projects within or near the half-mile radius of the proposed Durham station, approximately where the Amtrak depot is now. At 539 Foster St. (the Muze building) and on adjacent grassy lot, perfect for a game of badminton, 101 townhomes and condos are planned. This development grazes the half-mile targeted area, so it's technically not inside it, as is the Liberty Warehouse apartment project. Affordable? Doubtful.

Durham Central Park with the Liberty Warehouse lot in the background - LISA SORG
  • Lisa Sorg
  • Durham Central Park with the Liberty Warehouse lot in the background

The preserved wall of Liberty Warehouse - LISA SORG
  • Lisa Sorg
  • The preserved wall of Liberty Warehouse

Within the half-mile target area, on Hunt and Roney streets, 35 condos with two levels of underground parking are planned on a lot south of the Durham Farmers' Market: Parkside at Morris Ridge. Affordable? We don't know yet. But considering it's within Durham's Innovation District—an R&D partnership between Duke University and the private sector—I wouldn't bet on it.

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In a sunken lot across the street from the future Parkside at Morris Ridge project, someone (judging from the size of the shoes in the floorboard, a man) has been living in this old car. For several years, I've seen signs of life in and around this vintage auto (readers, help me here: make? model?): clothes on hangers hanging from the trees, for example.

When the condos are built—wealthier people traditionally live on ridges, the less-well-off in valleys—I wonder what will become of the resident of Roney Street. Living in a car is technically affordable but Durham, we can do better than this.

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