By Mia Khatib
DURHAM — Local officials and development partners gathered May 2 to celebrate the transition of 300 East Main Street. The service lot at 115 N. Queen St. has been converted into a public parking deck and affordable developer Laurel Street will begin constructing 110 units on the site this month.
The project is part of the Downtown Durham and Neighborhood Plan and also includes the redevelopment of 500 E. Main Street, which is being developed by ZOM Living. Combined, the two sites will feature 305 affordable units, 248 market-rate apartments, two parking decks, commercial space, and a childcare center at the 300 block site.
Durham County Commissioners Chair Brenda Howerton said the 30,000 square feet of commercial space will focus on nonprofits and organizations that will have a positive social impact. The child care center, which will feature two preschool classrooms and a lactation room, will accommodate 86 children.
“Providing housing was just not something that the county participated in, it's always the city,” she said. “Well, we took this on and we are so pleased and happy that we did.”
Peri Manns, Durham County deputy director of engineering and environmental services, added that the pandemic increased project costs, and the county is now contributing $11.26 million for 300 E. Main and $10.6 million for 500 E. Main. He also said they will install solar panels on the roof of the 300 block building.
Lee Cochran, Laurel Street senior vice president for development, said 300 E. Main will be entirely affordable housing, with studios, one bedroom, two bedrooms, and three bedrooms for people earning between 30% and 80% of the area median income. He said families will begin moving in by the end of 2024.
"This has probably been the most challenging two to three years to do affordable housing in the last 20 years that we've been working [in North Carolina],” Cochran said,” and what we're really proud… we're going to deliver what we promised when we started this.”
He told The Tribune that leasing will begin around 90 days before construction completes and apartment applications will be available on-site. Laurel Street also will have an online interest list to receive leasing updates.
There will be a separate waitlist for the approximately 20 subsidized Durham Housing Authority units, and applications for those will also open closer to the completion of the site, Anthony Snell, DHA director of real estate development, told The Tribune.
“There are cities that do this kind of work, but for a county to step up and make this kind of financial and just resource commitment to affordable housing is truly unprecedented in North Carolina,” Cochran said. “You can truly have a mixed-income, multigenerational community all living together in one building, and that’s special.”