By Mia Khatib
DURHAM — The Durham Housing Authority and mixed-income developer Laurel Street celebrated the grand opening of The Joyce, a new, affordable senior community in downtown Durham on April 14. The Joyce honors Durham trailblazer Joyce Thorpe Nichols, who was the first woman to be formally educated as a physician assistant, and a former DHA resident and board member.
The four-story apartment building includes 70 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units and will house residents 62 and older earning up to 80% of the area median income. Common areas, green spaces, and laundry centers are just a few of the amenities featured on-site.
DHA Chief Executive Officer Anthony Scott said The Joyce is the first new construction site under the DHA Downtown Durham Neighborhood Plan, which includes the preservation and development of approximately 2,500 affordable housing units.
“What we’re doing is making sure, first and foremost, to preserve our public housing units and that they stay in this downtown area,” Scott said. “Our residents have been a part of this community for decades. They deserve to continue to be a part of this community.”
The Joyce is adjacent to the recently renovated JJ Henderson Tower, another affordable senior housing site preserved under the DDNP, and just a few blocks away from Durham’s Miracle League of the Triangle, a new ballpark for individuals with special needs. Scott said these three sites comprise an amazing campus and a block that looks very different from just a few years ago.
“Other than the JJ building, this site consisted of unutilized parking and vacant land. This campus now serves those from the disabled view, all the way up to the senior population,” he said. “It incorporates this community into the larger downtown fabric and makes it a lot easier to get over to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park as well, and there'll be more efforts around making that connection in the coming months.”
Laurel Street President and CEO Dionne Nelson said the residential facility cost $18.8 million, with major contributions from DHA, the City of Durham, Red Stone Equity, and Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust. Twenty of the 80 units will be supported by project-based rental assistance, and each apartment features full kitchens, walk-in closets, ceiling fans, and more.
“This community has been built to market design standards and will be indistinguishable from any other housing in the city of Durham,” she said. “Now that construction is complete, we look forward to having The Joyce fully leased and occupied, frankly probably in the next 60 to 90 days, but certainly by the end of the summer.”
Nichols’ children, Symetta Williams and William Thorpe, thanked the community for preserving their mother’s legacy.
“A lot of times after people die, especially if they’re Black and have done something worthwhile, after one or two notices, they cut them off and forget about them,” Williams said. “Y’all take this legacy and do what people have done: continue to fight for rights, for housing, for communities.”
Visit www.the-joyce.com for more information.
Mia Khatib, who covers affordable housing and gentrification, is a Report for America corps member.