To shake stigma, area relies on tours

East Durham opens homes to all

Staff WriterSeptember 20, 2008 

With the Blues Festival, Centerfest and Phoenix Festival going on downtown, some agencies with interests in East Durham are hoping the festive mood will send some prospective homeowners their way.

The City of Durham is holding an open house today at Eastway Village, its subdivision along the renamed Barnes Avenue -- now "Eastway Avenue" -- between Taylor and Liberty streets.

Farther east, on Sunday, Uplift East Durham and Preservation Durham are holding their second tour of homes in the historic district around Driver Street.

"There are going to be some houses along Driver, a few on Main, a few in the Angier [Avenue]-Clay Street area," said Aidil Collins of neighborhood-improvement group Uplift East Durham. As of mid-week there were 11 houses on the tour, but Collins said she was still trying to line up more.

Where the East Durham tour is promoting renovation opportunities in a long-established neighborhood, Eastway Village is new construction meant to revive the blighted area near the now-demolished Few Gardens apartments site.

Saturday's open house is a promotion for pre-construction sales in the project's Phase III, consisting of 15 single-family homes ranging from 1,200 to 1,456 square feet and priced from $103,900 to $132,900.

Built out, the subdivision will have 31 single-family houses and 16 condominiums; according to its Web site, www.EastwayVillage.com, nine condominiums and two houses remain unsold in phases one and two.

The tour, Collins said, has three objectives:

* "Get people to come out and meet us, get a first impression" of East Durham;

* "Show off what fantastic homes we have"; and

* "Education on how to renovate these homes."

East Durham has long suffered from an image of depression and high crime. The area, developed around cotton mills beginning in the 1880s, was hurt by the mills' gradual decline after World War I, but Pauli Henson, endangered properties coordinator with Preservation Durham, said the high-crime image is overstated.

The neighborhood also represents a good opportunity for prospective home buyers during a tough time for real estate dealing, Henson and Collins said.

"There's no place they're going to get more bang for their buck than East Durham," Collins said. "They get more space for their money," she said. "Through renovation they will be able to personalize their homes." Home renovation in a historic district such as East Durham is also eligible for substantial tax credits, she said.

Renovatable historic properties Preservation Durham is putting on tour include a 1,700-square foot "Gothic cottage" listed at $39,000; and a two-story, 2,400-square foot residence for $20,000. Two other houses on the tour are listed through Preservation North Carolina, Henson said.

Preservation Durham even has a neighborhood school for sale: the old Y.E. Smith on Driver Street, a Classical Revival-style, 46,000-square foot brick building that, Henson said, an apartment developer could turn into "the heartbeat of East Durham."

"Times are right, prices are right," she said.

jim.wise@newsobserver.com or (919) 932-2004

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