Across Pender Street from Earl Cannon’s home, what was once a row of run-down structures is now a field of freshly turned dirt dotted with pipes and water meters – the first sign of new homes about to be built.
Raleigh is getting started with its plan to redevelop the East College Park neighborhood, located about two miles northeast of the state capitol near St. Augustine’s University. The city will build 98 single-family homes and 51 townhomes, and more than half will be sold to low- and moderate-income families.
The project coincides with a separate plan by DHIC, a local nonprofit housing group, to demolish Washington Terrace, a low-income housing project. DHIC will replace the neighborhood with affordable-housing units for families and senior citizens.
Together, the projects represent broader efforts to create more affordable-housing options in a fast-growing city with a rising cost of living.
For Cannon, 77, the projects mean the end of his historically African-American neighborhood as he knows it. The city now owns 103 lots in an eight-block area, and Cannon’s street has become nearly empty. His relatives live in two other homes on Pender Street.
“It seems like every day is Sunday,” said Cannon, whose father and grandfather built his house in 1952. “We’re not exactly the first, but we’re the last.”
Crews in East College Park are wrapping up a $5.5 million project to upgrade aging water, stormwater and sewer pipes under the streets.
The city is seeking bids from construction companies to build the houses and townhomes, said Larry Jarvis, director of Raleigh’s housing and neighborhoods department.
“Hopefully by (next) fall, we should start having some folks move in,” Jarvis said.
The townhomes will likely average 900 to 1,100 square feet and have two or three bedrooms, he said. The single-family homes will be 1,200 to 1,400 square feet, most with three bedrooms.
The homes are expected to cost about $175,000 to $260,000. About 60 percent of them will be sold to low- and moderate-income buyers, Jarvis said.
A family of four identified as having low to moderate income has an annual household income of less than $61,300, according to the city. The remaining homes will be available to buyers without income restrictions.
In October, the average sales price for a Wake County home was $297,342, according to the Triangle Multiple Listings Service.
To encourage homeownership, the city will prohibit buyers from renting out the properties for the first decade. If owners sell within 10 years, they must share a percentage of the sale profits with the city.
At Washington Terrace, which was built in 1950, construction is expected to begin early next year on 162 affordable family units and 72 affordable senior-living units.
Most of DHIC’s apartments are reserved for households earning 60 percent or below the median income, which is $45,600 for a family of four in Wake County.
“We’re basically providing replacement housing on a one-to-one basis,” said DHIC President Gregg Warren.
Redevelopment plans for East College Park and Washington Terrace have drawn concerns from some residents who say planners should have listened to them more.
DHIC is still in discussions with residents of the nearby Madonna Acres neighborhood, just north of Washington Terrace. Some residents say a plan to connect Fisher Street with Delany Drive will bring unwanted traffic.
The city and DHIC should pay particular attention to the future of Madonna Acres because it is on the National Register of Historic Places, said Danny Coleman, chairman of the South Central Citizens Advisory Council.
The 13-acre neighborhood has about 40 ranch and split-level homes that were built between 1960 and 1965. It was Raleigh’s first development for African-Americans by African-Americans, and its first residents were mainly educators, according to the Raleigh Historic Development Commission.
Madonna Acres was designed by John Winters, a descendant of a Raleigh family of free blacks and an advocate who worked to improve life for the African-American community. He served as the first black Raleigh city member of the 20th century and won a seat in the state senate, according to the commission.
“We think we have all these protections,” Coleman said. “But no one has shown us this extra level of sensitivity and there’s a lot of well-meaning people that feel like they’ve been left out in the cold.”
Warren said an “overwhelming majority of residents” supported DHIC’s plans after learning about them at public meetings. The group is working with the city to potentially install traffic-calming measures such as a median near Madonna Acres.
“The residents (of Washington Terrace) have really been patient,” Warren said. “The houses they live in are substandard and need to come down, and we’re going to provide much better housing for them.”
In East College Park, Cannon plans to watch his street come back to life.
“I think it’s going to be nice,” Cannon said. “It’s got to be.”