DHA hopes to revitalize Southeast Central Durham community

Tarsha Wilson’s 4-year-old son, Deshaun Wilson, stands on the small porch of their McDougald Terrace apartment. (Staff photo by Amber Buford)

Tarsha Wilson’s 4-year-old son, Deshaun Wilson, stands on the small porch of their McDougald Terrace apartment. (Staff photo by Amber Buford)


By Jordan Bailey, UNC Staff Writer; and Amber Buford, NCCU Staff Writer

The Durham Housing Authority hopes to receive some federal money for much needed renovations to low income housing communities next year.

The federal Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) aims to provide neighborhoods across the United States with a portion of the funds needed to redevelop target areas. Alisha Curry, the CNI coordinator for the Durham Housing Authority (DHA), said the Authority was awarded a $300,000 planning grant from the program to come up with a redevelopment plan for the Southeast Central Durham community. Curry said DHA completed the plan with the help of funds from other areas of the community totaling $1.6 million.

“(The community) comes together and plans how we can revitalize this whole area,” Curry said. “It’s more than just the housing component. It’s neighborhood, it’s sidewalk, it’s greenways.

“And then it’s also the people component. How do we make sure that people have the access to education and jobs and health facilities.”

Chief Executive Officer of DHA Dallas Parks said the Authority plans to apply for an implementation grant from CNI next year in order to put some of the community’s redevelopment plans in motion. He said they could be awarded up to $30 million.

McDougald Terrace, which falls in the target neighborhood for redevelopment, is just one of the affordable housing communities in Durham with 340 housing units.

The 60-year-old housing complex, which Dallas said has not undergone any major renovations since its construction, is in dire need of an upgrade.

After eight years of living in McDougald Terrace with her three children, Tarsha Wilson, 38, said that with the exception of some small patch-up work, not much has changed since she moved in.

“My ceiling fell in right here, the toilet leaks into my kitchen, we have bug infestations and bats outside leaving feces everywhere,” Wilson said.

Dee Poe, 31, who is a frequent visitor of her sister who lives in McDougald Terrace, said her sister, Sirena Davis, had a similar experience.

“My sister’s bathroom messed up one time where the tile came through the floor into the kitchen,” Poe said. “It was like real nasty, you could see straight up into the bathroom and all the yuck … it was disgusting.”

Residents of McDougald Terrace wish for a livable, clean and safe place to call home.

“I would love if my sister was able to move,” Poe said.

Though Parks said he recognizes the need for renovations, he said it is difficult when money is scarce.

“Obviously when you have a structure that old, you’re going to have some problems maintaining it,” Parks said.

Parks said the estimated cost of demolishing McDougald Terrace, along with the Lincoln Apartments complex that DHA also maintains, and rebuilding both units is about $135 million.

Although DHA is working to raise funds to redevelop the area, some residents remain skeptical that change is coming.

“They aren’t going to do nothing, anywhere,” Wilson said. “They need to go ahead and tear this thing down, transfer people or whatever they are going to do. One minute they say (renovations will happen in) 2014 then 2015 and now 2016. Like when are you really going to do it? (DHA) keeps pushing it back but aren’t really doing anything. So I don’t know what they really are going to do.”

Amber is a staff writer-photographer for the Durham Voice and a student at N.C. Central University.

Jordan is a staff writer-photographer of the UNC-Chapel Hill team of the Durham VOICE. She is a senior journalism major from Pfafftown, N.C.