By Thomasi McDonald
April 13, 2022
Earlier this year, the Durham Housing Authority (DHA) rejected a visionary plan to develop a residential, educational, and commercial hub near downtown Durham known as Hayti Reborn. Last week, the director of the group behind that effort asked the Durham City Council to allow the community to weigh in on the development of Fayette Place, a 20-acre swath of long-vacant land in the southern shadow of the downtown district.
“Since [the] Durham Housing Authority plans to enter into a 99-year land lease with a development partner, what happens on this project will impact the Hayti community for the next century,” Henry McKoy, the director of Hayti Reborn, wrote in an email last week to Durham’s city council on behalf of the Hayti Reborn Community Action Council (HRCAC).
McKoy wrote that the council is “peacefully asking” Mayor Elaine O’Neal and her fellow council members to intervene “in the matter of Fayette Place and agree to support Hayti Reborn’s request for a public hearing (‘Public Healing’) on this matter—and host this event in full view of the public.”
The HRCAC email also asked the council members to “issue a city injunction on Fayette Place by asking the DHA to immediately cease and desist any and all current negotiations with any organization on Fayette Place’s development until this matter is fully settled through a public hearing.”
McKoy also asked the city council to make room for a diverse Durham public to be allowed time and space to offer feedback to its members following a public hearing on “competing Fayette Place visions.”
McKoy states in the email that the city’s elected leaders and city manager have a vested interest in the development of Fayette Place, per a 2017 contract between the City of Durham and DHA, along with the nonprofit Development Ventures Incorporated (DVI), when the federal housing agency repurchased the property.
McKoy notes that one of the provisions of the contract states that “DVI shall not develop, sell, convey or otherwise transfer the Site, or any part thereof or interest therein, without the prior written consent of the City Manager or his/her designee.”
McKoy told the city council that its action, or inaction, will impact the next five generations of Black Durham residents and determine “whether the next century will be spent re-creating wealth in Durham’s Black community or re-extracting wealth from Durham’s Black community.”