The Durham City Council on Monday night approved a $4.162 million grant that will allow the Durham Housing Authority to buy back twenty acres of vacant land known as Fayette Place.
The money will come from the city’s general fund and can only be used to acquire the land and maintain it until it is sold or developed.
Development Ventures Incorporated, a real estate development company controlled by the Housing Authority, and Campus Apartments, which currently owns the land, have agreed to close on the deal no later than June 16. The contract stipulates that Durham Housing Authority cannot sell or transfer the property without written consent from the city.
Campus Apartments bought the property, bounded by Fayetteville, Umstead, and Merrick streets, in 2007 with the condition that it would develop a certain amount of affordable housing for students at nearby N.C. Central.
The Philadelphia-based company never followed through on that agreement, and the property has sat vacant since Campus Apartments cleared the site in 2009 of everything but the foundations of a former public housing complex.
If the conditions of the sale were not met, the Durham Housing Authority had the option to buy back the land by August 6, 2017. The housing authority declared Campus Apartments in default of the contract in November, beginning the process of reacquiring the land.
The site had been the location of the Fayetteville Street public housing complex, which was built in 1967. In 2002, the housing authority sought to convert the site into for-profit public housing, but those plans were never realized. In 2007, Fayette Place was sold to Campus Apartments for $4 million.
"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,” a Campus Apartments spokesperson said in an email to the INDY last month
. (NCCU, for its part, said it “did not have a role" in plans to convert the site for student housing, and a spokesperson could not answer why the school in 2010 decided not to participate in the arrangement.)
The city’s Community Development Department is tasked with monitoring how the grant is spent. The redeveloped site must include affordable housing and can include market-rate housing or nonresidential uses, like office or retail space. The housing authority must also work with the city to create “a community engagement program to provide meaningful opportunities for the Durham community, including but not limited to the Hayti and North Carolina Central University communities, to contribute input in connection with the redevelopment of the Site and the surrounding area.”
A project schedule says landscaping will begin on June 30, and by September, community input will be sought.