Some residents who live in the East College Park neighborhood east of downtown say the city is using a “sneaky, dirty, under-handed approach” to push a revitalization plan that could drastically change the area.
Dozens of people attended a meeting Tuesday about the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area, a plan that aims to transform the historically black East College Park and Washington Terrace neighborhoods near St. Augustine’s University into mixed-income communities.
Some people said the city should have worked more closely with residents to develop the plan, and they want officials to hold off before bringing the plan to the city council for a public hearing on Sept. 1.
“This has been an unfair process and we are here as hostages,” Octavia Rainey, a neighborhood leader and chairwoman of the North Central Citizens Advisory Council, said Tuesday.
The meeting highlighted skepticism among the African-American community about redevelopment efforts near downtown Raleigh. As the city has grown and redeveloped, some minority families have been displaced.
“African-Americans have been hoodwinked by the city for years,” Rainey said. “Every time you say we’re going to get a piece of the pie, we don’t.”
Several residents recalled the changes at Walnut Terrace, a public housing community that was redeveloped this year into a mix of affordable housing and market-rate homes.
It’s unclear how many Walnut Terrace residents returned to the redeveloped neighborhood.
The Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area plan for East College Park includes affordable housing, home rehabilitation programs and opportunities for families to become homeowners.
East College Park would become a mixed-income community by 2023, according to the plan.
Meanwhile, DHIC, a nonprofit that partners with Raleigh to create affordable housing, plans to redevelop Washington Terrace.
The city wants to use tax credits accessible by following guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. To qualify, Raleigh must have a plan that identifies the area to be rehabilitated.
Larry Jarvis, Raleigh’s director of housing and neighborhoods, said DHIC can begin to organize its plans for Washington Terrace once the plan is approved by the city council.
If approved, East College Park and Washington Terrace would become Raleigh’s first HUD-designated strategy area, Jarvis said.
The details of the overall plan are still unclear, and the city would host more neighborhood meetings about specifics, said housing and neighborhoods staff member Shawn McNamara.
“It’s a broad commitment,” he said.
But some residents said the plan already seems too final and that they should have been consulted earlier.
“Are you doing this for DHIC?” Rainey asked city staff. “Because you’re not doing it for us.”
Some suggested that DHIC move ahead with the Washington Terrace project. But they said the city should revisit the strategy for East College Park, with citizen input.
But Jarvis said without Washington Terrace the area might not qualify for some of HUD’s programs because of income requirements. Seventy percent of people who live within a HUD strategy area must have low or moderate income.
To create the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area, the city used two blocks of a U.S. Census tract. A third block of the tract that includes the Oakwood neighborhood was left out because it would have made the area ineligible for HUD’s programs, Jarvis said.
Rainey said the decision to split the area was “gerrymandering,” and the city shouldn’t have done it.