20 acres of ‘sadness and hope’: Will historic Black neighborhood see new chapter?

The News&Observer

By Charlie Innis

February 25, 2021

From her front porch, Brenda Bradsher can see the chain-link fence separating Grant Street from 20 acres of weeds and crumbling cement.

She wants to see the land razed to the ground, and in its place, new houses, a grocery store and a community center. On sunny days she walks laps in the parking lot of a nearby church, but the 75-year-old said she’d prefer to do her exercise in a swimming pool.

“Some (place) we can go walk to, see friends, sit down and play bingo,” said Bradsher, who’s lived in a part of Durham’s Southside known as Hayti her whole life. “Do a lot of stuff that we can’t do now because we don’t have anywhere to go to do it.”

The vacant land by her home, often called “Fayette Place,” is the former site of the Fayetteville Street public housing complex. Since its construction in 1967, it has been sold to developers, demolished, bought back by the Durham Housing Authority, and earmarked for housing projects that never came to fruition. The property has remained bare since at least 2009.

But it is now the focus of a new kind of redevelopment project, one that could involve Hayti residents in the planning process.

Henry McKoy, a professor and director of entrepreneurship at the N.C. Central University School of Business, is applying for a $20 million grant with the Kellogg Foundation to invest in a broader “Hayti Reborn” effort.