Durham News

‘Lofts at Southside’ close to done


Ten years after the city foreclosed on the failed Rolling Hills subdivision, a new neighborhood in its place is almost ready for residents.

Weather permitting, 10 of the 12 buildings in the 132-apartment Lofts at Southside should be finished by April 29, and ready for move-in in May, the City Council heard during its work session last week.

Meanwhile, four single-family homes are under construction for low-income owners at South and Fargo streets in “The Bungalows at Southside,” the other section of the city’s overall revitalization project covering 125 acres just south of the Durham Freeway.

“It’s just come such a long way,” said Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden. “I’m so excited I want to jump up and down.”

There’s still a ways to go. At the Lofts, there are parking lots, landscaping, a swimming pool, decorative stormwater pond, lighting and two buildings remaining to be finished – all the remaining work “weather critical,” Community Development Director Reginald Johnson said in a progress report to the council.

At the Bungalows, the four houses near completion are just the first of 48 in the long-blighted area between South Roxboro Street and the American Tobacco Trail. Still, it’s progress.

“Go and see how that transformation is coming, it's amazing,” said Mayor Bill Bell.

‘Things do happen’

There are still glitches to contend with at the Southside Lofts (aka “Southside East”) and Bungalows (aka “Southside West”).

For example, a contractor wants an extra $477,000 for getting the Bungalows lots ready for building. Johnson said the extra money was necessary because of “items that materialized” – like 1,500 unexpected cubic yards of rock – after the contractor “got into the dirt,” Johnson said. The original contract is for $1.7 million.

“Something is amiss here,” said Councilman Eugene Brown.

“Things do happen,” said Johnson.

The unforeseen has plagued the Lofts, too: rock and hazardous waste, then rainy weather, which made it unlikely general contractor McCormack Baron could meet a Dec. 31, 2013 deadline for tax credits it had already sold for about $11.5 million.

Company executives and city officials talked the N.C. Housing Finance Agency into changing its rules to allow an extra year to finish.

“We would have been in deep doo-doo without that change,” Brown said.

Johnson told the council he would be back in a few weeks to ask “additional financial assistance” for McCormack Baron due to the “environmental remediation” delay.

The Lofts are designed to be affordable to a market of mixed incomes. That means, Johnson said, of the 132 apartments,

•  20 are reserved for tenants with household incomes 30 percent of the area median, with rents of $200 a month for a one-bedroom unit and $343 a month for two bedrooms;

•  13 are for tenants with incomes 50 percent of the area median, rents $527 a month for one bedroom and $638 for two;

•  47 are for tenants with incomes 60 percent of the area median, rents $660 a month for one bedroom, $787 for two and $901 for three;

•  Rents for the rest are to be “market rate”: $740 for one bedroom, $868 for two, $1,150 for three.

With about 1,700 new apartments coming open in Durham, Brown asked how the Lofts would be affected by the competition. Johnson said they have an advantage in their location: close to downtown and in a reviving area.

“The idea that people can be in a community that is reestablishing itself and reinvigorating itself has an appeal,” he said, “for a particular type of individual.”