Project RED coming to East Durham

By Naundi Armour
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

Preservation North Carolina and Preservation Durham along with the city of Durham have joined forces to launch Project RED (Revitalize East Durham).

The first Project RED home, at 213 Driver St., is currently on the market. (Staff photo by Naundi Armour.

Both Preservation NC, the only private nonprofit statewide historic preservation organization,  and Preservation Durham rehabilitate and restore historic homes and buildings.

According to the Preservation NC website, its mission is “to protect and promote buildings, landscapes and sites important to the diverse heritage of North Carolina.”

The nonprofit has saved and rehabilitated more than 600 historic properties since its founding in 1939.

“Preservation NC is pretty much the ‘Nature conservancy for buildings,’” said Cathleen Turner, Preservation NC Regional Director.

Preservation Durham was founded in 1974 as the Historic Preservation Society of Durham. Their mission is “to preserve the history, architecture, and cultural heritage of Durham and Durham County and to serve as an institution for the education of citizens through the promotion and appreciation of this heritage.”

For more than five years both organizations have been working with residents of East Durham and community advocates to fulfill their mission of “building a safe, attractive, economically sound and sustainable neighborhood that is both racially and economically diverse.”

“Diversity on many levels is important to any neighborhood,” said Turner.

For Project RED, rebuilding and rehabilitating quality and affordable homes for families are priority.

“When someone buys a house, they shouldn’t have to worry about how much money they’re going to put into it,” said Turner. “The only thing these homeowners should have to worry about is getting their loan to buy the home.”

Project REDs first complete renovation was a 100 year old cottage at 213 S. Driver St. With the help of their contractor, Coral Home Solutions and many individual donors, they were able to turn a once vacant ‘old’ home, into a “historic, green, affordable show house.”

The National Association Home Builders Research Center (NAHB) awarded the home an Emerald-level certification.

According to the NAHB, to be on the Emerald level, the highest rating for a residential green building, means a building must incorporate energy savings of 60% or more.

Green certified homes must also incorporate green practices in six categories: Lot & Site Development, Resource Efficiency, Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency, Indoor Environmental Quality and Homeowner Education.

This ‘emerald house’ is on the market for less than $130,000 and because it was an historic rehabilitation, it qualified for state historic tax credits. What’s the incentive for the homeowner? The credit will provide the new homeowner with almost $40,000 in tax credit.

“We have access to these grants to offset the building costs and since we’re a non-profit, we just pass them on to the homeowner,” said Turner. “We eventually want to turn the whole block into owner occupied housing.”

For some residents this idea may seem a little farfetched. “From what I’ve seen, the house looks good and I think it’s a good idea, but I just don’t know if it’s going to work here,” said Driver St. resident, Allison Griffin.

Although there is some doubt, Turner remains optimistic, “I saw kids playing in the street, and I knew that was the canary in the coal mine for me.”