Remembering the HOPE VI Principles

In 2000, the city was awarded a 35 million dollar grant from HUD for the HOPE VI project to revitalize Durham. The Developers produced a lavish document describing the principles behind this revitalization effort. You can see the whole document here:

But a few passages from it are worth reemphasizing today. Here’s one:

“North East Central Durham must also maintain and reinforce the connection with its history and the historic assets that lend it character. The dignified mill buildings that established this neighborhood can become focal points and symbols of the community. The Revitalization Plan must also acknowledge the bungalows of the Golden Belt historic district and complement their character in the design of new residential development.”

There’s much more in this ambitious plan that’s still relevant today. But those words are particularly significant given that the Durham Rescue Mission wishes to tear down some of those houses and create a private compound in part of the neighborhood.  Their plans have also called for closing off streets.  But the HOPE VI plan called for precisely the opposite.  Here’s what it said:

“North East Central Durham must overcome not only its isolation from the surrounding community but also the isolation experienced by pockets within the neighborhood. To do so, the design must establish street patterns that physically connect the neighborhood internally and to adjacent areas. This involves breaking oversize blocks into a more regular street grid and aligning intersections and streets to establish a predictable pattern to the neighborhood. Reconnecting the neighborhood also requires invigorating vacant or desolate spaces that create psychological distance.”

If the Planning Department and the City Council were to ignore these principles in rezoning the Golden Belt neighborhood, will the City give the 35 million back?

–John Martin