Self-Help, a community development lender, real estate developer and credit union founded in Durham in 1980, today announced that it has acquired several contiguous parcels of land along West Chapel Hill Street, and is in the beginning stages of planning a new development expected to be a key part of its work to help revitalize the area.
“Self-Help has been involved in the revitalization of Southwest Central Durham for almost a decade, in partnership with the Quality of Life initiative, Habitat, DCLT and others,” said Self-Help Vice President Tucker Bartlett. “With this next step we hope to help catalyze economic development in the area and thereby help strengthen the surrounding neighborhood by expanding economic opportunities.”
Resident Alisa Johnson of the Burch Avenue neighborhood and president of the Southwest Central Durham Quality of Life (QOL) Project said, “This is a dream come true for QOL. This project is the culmination of many, many years of hard work, and we’re excited by the possibilities for our neighborhood.”
The parcels are on the south side of West Chapel Street, stretching from a City-owned parking lot and wrapping around the corner of Kent Street. Together, they represent approximately 2.3 acres.
Self-Help has engaged two Durham-based firms, DTW Architects and Planners and landscape architects Coulter Jewell Thames, P.A., to begin site planning and to determine what type of development would make best use of the site. At the same time, Self-Help has been working with the neighborhood-based QOL and other neighbors to get feedback from residents and business owners on the street.
“This is the first step of what will be a multi-year process,” said Paul Brown, project manager for Self-Help. “Redeveloping an urban site such as this involves a host of complex issues. That said, we feel that we can manage these issues going forward, and are gratified by the response to date from QOL and the neighbors. We’re excited about where we are, but we have a long way to go.”
Nick Johnson, who with his wife owns The Cookery, an event space and commercial kitchen on West Chapel Hill Street, welcomed the possibility of new activity on the street. "We are very grateful for the time and effort put into our neighborhood development," said Johnson. "Our business, as well as our member businesses, will no doubt benefit from the growth of the area."
Brown said Self-Help was still in the planning stages, but was considering a mixed-use development.
“Our experience is in redeveloping underutilized urban buildings to create more activity in downtowns and neighborhoods,” Brown said. “We will likely design a mix of uses, including office and retail, but it is too early to say what the project will look like. What motivates us to do this kind of work is to help strengthen the neighborhood by increasing economic opportunities in a manner that complements existing buildings on the street.”
Brown said that the site planning process and engagement with community stakeholders would continue through 2012 and 2013. Self-Help was beginning preliminary discussions with possible tenants, but did not expect to announce any agreements until 2013.
“As we get more input from neighbors, potential tenants and other stakeholders, it will have an impact on what we can build. We hope to have an exciting plan and design to share with the community in the early part of 2013.”