Boarded-up Blount Street property set for facelift as SE Raleigh transformation continues

The beige-brick building at 515 S. Blount St. has sat boarded up for years, one of a couple such empty buildings on that block.

But soon, its new tenant hopes, it will be part of a reactivation of a block in a part of town known as the Prince Hall Historic District, a historically African American community that grew up around Shaw University southeast of downtown.

The area has seen millions of dollars in investments in recent years — geared toward both residential homes and commercial space — fueling claims of gentrification and displacement in the area, most notably in a recent New York Times article.

But Valerie Fields, the owner of Raleigh-based public relations agency VK Fields & Co., is hoping her investment can highlight the history of the neighborhood.

Fields, who is black, is planning to put $100,000 worth of repairs and renovations into the South Blount Street building when she moves her firm’s office from West Hargett Street to the area just north of Shaw University.

“Here is another story,” she said referencing the New York Times article about white homebuyers flocking to the historically black neighborhood. “It’s important just to know something else is going on here, even if it looks like there is an overwhelming trend one way.”

It’s not a simple renovation. The building, once a photography studio, needs a lot of work to accommodate her full-time team of four professionals and about a dozen subcontractors that sometime use the space.

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(Raleigh News and Observer, 5/14/19)