The East Durham National Register Historic District, just a few blocks east of Downtown, is an ideally located neighborhood providing an excellent mix of quality historic homes that are affordable for working families and first-time homeowners. For years, the neighborhood was plagued with absentee landlords and disinvestment, resulting in poorly maintained and vacant buildings and wanton demolitions that fractured the community’s cohesiveness. Existing homeowners have seen property values fall and crime rates rise.
Preservation North Carolina and Preservation Durham worked for over a decade with East Durham residents and community advocates to encourage neighborhood revitalization through the renovation of its vacant historic buildings. Project RED (Revitalize East Durham) was a collaborative effort to rebuild a safe, attractive, economically sustainable neighborhood that is both racially and economically diverse.
By preserving and rehabilitating the neighborhood’s wealth of early-20th-century homes, our work aimed to increase homeowner-occupants, encourage public and private investments in amenities and infrastructure, and bring back pride in the community. Preservation NC renovated and sold vacant historic houses and encouraged the private construction of new houses on vacant lots. Our renovated houses were affordable for service workers, public employees, and first-time homeowners – especially in when compared to prices elsewhere in the booming downtown Durham market.
All of the historic Project RED homes were sold with protective covenants and eligible for historic rehabilitation tax credits as well as other financial incentives. We invested more than $1.2 million to acquire and rehabilitate these historic properties. We are also proud to have played a role in the preservation of the former Y.E. Smith School, which now serves as the Maureen Joy Charter School on S. Driver St. PNC sold the property to Self-Help Ventures Fund which completed an impressive rehabilitation. Neighbors are thrilled to once again hear voices of children coming from the property and see parents who are discovering for the first time, or with renewed eyes, the East Durham neighborhood.
If you believe that saving diverse historic communities like East Durham is important or that neighborhood revitalization supports sustainable cities, we need your help to continue similar efforts throughout the state. Make a donation here.
Preservation North Carolina is enormously grateful to the following project partners for their generous financial support for Project RED:
AJ Fletcher Foundation
City of Durham
Square One Bank