Durham News

Former Army Reserve Center in Durham draws interest, concern

Federal officials have declared the property at 1228 Carroll Street as surplus property and is taking letters of interest for community uses for the property
Federal officials have declared the property at 1228 Carroll Street as surplus property and is taking letters of interest for community uses for the property Courtesy of Google maps

A park. Housing for formerly homeless people. A refuge for domestic-violence victims.

Those are some of the proposed uses for a shuttered U.S. Army Reserve Center at 1228 Carroll St.

Federal and city officials outlined the process for what happens next during a meeting Tuesday night at the Community Family Life and Recreation Center at Lyon Park.

The site was declared surplus property in December.

Some residents said they want something uplifting like a park. Some said putting homeless services there would hurt Lyon Park and nearby neighborhoods.

Homeless and affordable advocates tried to explain their proposals would look more like well-maintained housing than the homeless shelter some envision.

Here are answers to some of the questions at the meeting.

Q:What is happening with the former U.S. Army Reserve Center?

Declaring the property surplus makes it eligible for public purposes.

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires the General Services Administration to screen every surplus federal property for homeless assistance use. If the property is found suitable, that use gets priority.

Other uses include education, corrections, emergency management, self-help housing, law enforcement and a public park. The property could be transferred, sold or leased to local or state governments or nonprofit organizations.

Those interested in providing homeless assistance have until Feb. 21 to express interest in the property, said Kris Carson, with the General Services Administration. Organizations interested in providing other services have until Feb. 22.

Applications would be submitted by sponsoring federal agencies. For example, Health and Human Services would sponsor homeless services applications.

“(Organizations) have to demonstrate that they have the money, the resources, the wherewithal, the track record,” Carson said. “It’s basically like applying for a loan.”

The property is offered as is. If no viable plans are submitted, then the federal government can mark it for public sale to the private sector.

Q: Do reuses have to follow Durham’s zoning regulations?

If property is sold or transferred, the proposal would have to meet the city’s zoning regulations. If leased, the federal property is exempt from local zoning restrictions. Carson said the government would prefer to sell the property.

The property is zoned residential and would allow about 20 units. The zoning would prevent uses like a soup kitchen or transient housing, correctional facilities and medical facilities without a rezoning, a process ultimately decided by the City Council. A group home, independent living facility, educational facilities and government facilities could be allowed with a special use permit.

Single-family housing, a neighborhood center or a park would be allowed under the current zoning.

Q:What influence will residents have on the selection process?

Deputy City Manager Keith Chadwell encouraged residents to express their support and concern to the city. The process let the city inform the federal government about the zoning and the character of the neighborhood.

“The one point of advocacy I know that we are going to exercise is an appeal to the controlling entities and the agencies that will be considering the applications that we would like as best we can to achieve a use that is compatible based on some consideration by the local government in consultation with the residents of this neighborhood,” he said.

Q: What organizations have expressed interest?

Federal officials couldn’t provide a complete list.

The Department of Parks and Recreations has submitted a letter of interest to use it as a recreational facility. The Police Department may express interest in using it to house and administer programs for their Police Athletic League, Chadwell said.

The Durham Housing Authority and nonprofit affordable housing developer CASA are interested in building permanent supportive housing, a development created for formerly homeless individuals who have become self-sustaining.

The Durham Crisis Response Center has interest in providing emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence who have been made homeless.

Expressing interest doesn’t mean a group will submit an application.

The city plans to share information on interested organizations with the public, possibly through a web page, Chadwell said.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges