“This is a holistic plan for revitalization,” Larry Jarvis, the city’s director of housing and neighborhoods explained at a meeting last month at the Tarboro Community Center. Working with residents, community leaders and elected officials, the city is developing a “Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area Plan.” The strategy, which must be approved by the City Council, allows city officials to be flexible and creative in their use of federal funds.
“These flexible funds can transform economically disadvantaged neighborhoods into sustainable communities with mixed-income housing, safe streets and economic opportunities,” according to city documents.
At the meeting at the Tarboro Community Center, residents said the area needs improvements like more supermarkets, better transportation, programs to fix up housing, and recreational programs that can help keep youth out of trouble.
The plan targets two neighborhoods on either side of Oakwood Avenue – Washington Terrace, between Saint Augustine’s University and Raleigh Boulevard, and College Park, generally south of the university. The two neighborhoods have great needs, city data shows.
The median house value of owner-occupied homes in College Park is $107,300, approximately half the citywide median value of $207,000. More than 47 percent of families in the area live below the poverty level.
In Washington Terrace, 98 percent of residents have incomes less than 80 percent of area median income.
While per capita income in Raleigh is $30,470, in the two neighborhoods it is $8,729.
The area does have advantages – chiefly Saint Augustine’s University, which provides stability to the neighborhoods, a city report states.
The plan calls for a number of improvements over an eight-year period:
- Infrastructure such as water, sewer and storm water line improvements.
- New sidewalks on Oakwood Avenue from Heck to Raleigh Blvd.
- 320 new rental units.
- 195 new homeownership units.
- At least 30 home rehab loans to assist seniors and low-income residents.
- Creation of at least 500 construction jobs
- Construction of a child-care facility on the Washington Terrace site.
Other improvements may include computer training, health and wellness classes, Bible study and exercise classes for senior citizens, as well as classes on finance, parenting education, mentoring and job prep programs for youth.
So far, residents are cautious about the plan. Esther Delany, a long-time resident of Washington Terrace, admits “the neighborhood needs repair,” but she said the city should move slowly and be make sure to get input from residents.
“Citizens should have a voice,” Delany added. “They should be asked what programs they need to better the neighborhood rather than just assumptions on what they need.”
“It sounds good on paper but ultimately I have little faith in the plan,” said Marji Smith, who attended some of the meetings with city officials about the plan. “The plan is not the best for existing residents. They will eventually end up with no place. The plan will move a lot of people out of the area. When it is finished, current residents will not be able to afford it.”
To learn more about the plan, visit www.raleighnc.gov.
— Charles Gilchrist