Project RED Offers New Homes, New Beginnings

It’s been two years since the launch of Project RED (Revitalize East Durham)and two homes have already been sold.

New homeowners Caryn Braunstein and Emmanuel Rittner stand in front of their new home on 213 S. Driver St. Photo by: Preservation North Carolina

New homeowners Caryn Braunstein and Emmanuel Rittner stand in front of their new home on 213 S. Driver St. (Photo by: Preservation North Carolina)

Homes on Hart Street and South Driver Street now belong to first-time homeowners.

“Owning my own home has given me a sense of accomplishment,” said Kenny Parella, one of the homeowners. “I believed, for most of my life, that I would never own my residence. There is a sense of security in having a place that belongs to one.”

Project RED is a campaign that helps people buy historic homes. The group also focuses on preserving and rebuilding East Durham. The husband and wife team of Emmanuel Rittner and Caryn Braunstein are also first-time homeowners, thanks to Project Red.

“Emmanuel is very proud to own this home,” Braunstein said. “Being the homeowner of an historic property gives us a sense of satisfaction and pride that you just don’t get from owning a new house.”

Moving to the Northeast Central Durham area was a no brainer for both Parella and Caryn.

“What attracted me to in the first place was the attention paid during the restoration of this beautiful house,” Parella said. “It is perfect and feels like home. I was told by many that the neighborhood was unsavory, but as soon as I took possession I realized that my neighbors are proud of East Durham and would love to see it become a vital part of Durham’s growth.”

That area also means a lot to Braunstein.

“There is a lot of interesting history in this part of town,” Braunstein said.“We fell in love with the charm of the home and with the fact that it falls within such a large historic district.”

The neighborhood’s reaction to the project “has been delightful,” said Cathleen Turner, who works with the project as a regional director.

“We meet many great people of the community who are supportive and ask us to consider properties,” she said.

The neighborhood has “a sense of unity that is rarely seen in cities nowadays,” Braunstein said.

Parella agreed.

“One thing I noticed upon moving to East Durham was the misconception about how dangerous it is,” Parella said. “People here are friendly and helpful. Yes, it does have its problems, but I have neighbors who wave and say hello when I walk my dog. I have seen and had neighbors help out when something goes wrong. My car battery died two days after I moved in and as soon as they realized I had a problem, a couple guys offered to help out. I didn’t even have to ask. And it was Super Bowl Sunday!”

Project RED didn’t just give Parella a new home; it also allowed Parella give a new home to someone else.

“The best improvement to come out of buying my house is that I was able to rescue a dog and also give her a home,” Parella said. “Her name is Violet, and she is a true Durham dog: some variety of hound/lab/pit bull mix with tons of personality and the sweetest disposition.”
With four homes undergoing renovation to be put on the market, Project RED shows no signs of slowing down. Braunstein hopes the momentum continues.

“We hope that in a year from now, Project RED is continuing to make great strides in our neighborhood,” Braunstein said. “With each restored historic home, the area becomes a little bit more aesthetically pleasing and another structure is saved.”