You are on page 1of 1

August 20, 2018

To: Chair Jacobs and Members of the Durham County Board of County Commissioners

Re: Proposed Alternatives for 300 and 500 block of East Main Street

First we would like to commend Durham County for the Board, staff and consultant’s work in exploring
development alternatives for two key downtown properties – the county parking lots at 300 and 500
East Main Street. This work in recent months had been robust, open, and compelling. We are pleased
that a number of alternative proposals were generated and that the public had multiple chances to
weigh in. We would also like to thank your consultants at DFI for their willingness to meet with us and
other interested organizations and to consider alternative site plans and programs developed by
community groups.

While we have previously communicated with the Board on several occasions about what might work
best on these sites, today we write to strongly encourage the BOCC to direct DFI to pursue “Option B”
in developing a request for proposals (RFP) for these sites. We believe Option B maximizes the various
goals of the Durham community’s public interest and those of the County – substantial parking, a range
of housing options, and commercial development.

Most importantly, Option B is much stronger in its provision of long-term affordable housing. It
creates significantly more affordable units under 60% AMI than Option A: 216 versus 140. We also
noted that Option B provides more guaranteed affordable units at 60-80% AMI, 61 versus 40, and it
has a larger number of very low-income units with more units below 30% AMI, 50 versus 32.

In addition, Option B provides the opportunity for relocation of families that are at DHA Liberty Street
apartments who currently have 3-Bedroom units. There are no 3-Bedroom units in Option A in either
block. Finally, we are also concerned that Option A’s micro units will not necessarily remain affordable
to the 80% AMI household as market forces push up rents over time. These micro units could also be
flipped to use as a temporary rental (like AirBNB), and no regulations exist in Durham to prevent this.

Regarding the goals of increasing commercial activity along Main Street and increasing vibrancy at the
street level, Option B is superior because it locates the street level retail close to the street along Main
rather than having most of the retail being set back from the street as in Option A.
The DFI consultants have told us that a mixed-use project with considerable affordable housing units at
various income levels (AMIs) is commercially feasible and that there are developers who would bid on
it. While Option B requires somewhat more cash upfront, both alternatives before you represent a
very similar total public investment.

All-in-all, the Coalition is excited to get on with the next steps. We believe Option B promotes a
“welcoming and inclusive community” around downtown East Main and will support the
redevelopment of the Durham Housing Authority properties of Oldham Towers and Liberty Street. We
look forward to the day when this project is complete and know that it will be a signature piece of
activating the east end of downtown Durham.

Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit