The Telegram Public Forum Page – Headline – Location of Public Housing ILL Conceived

After I wrote the blog about PLAN B, letting Woda Cooper Companies repurpose one of our old buildings for low-income housing, I wrote a letter to the Telegram. They published it on Tuesday. Nobody told me that the paper has been on a diet. Something else we better talk about here on Main Street. It’s on the list, but we have other fish to fry now. Please leave a comment at the bottom of the blog if you like the idea of PLAN B as a viable alternative to Section 8 housing in the wrong place. This isn’t a very sexy post, sorry, but the proposal as it stands now has LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES that are costly. Add your voice and influence to stopping this costly mistake. Skip to paragraph 3 of the letter if you’ve read the blog.

The City Council has approved Woda Cooper Companies (WCC) as “development partners” for construction of “workforce housing” on Tarboro Street, across from Edgecombe Community College. WCC has experienced developers, general contractors, and property managers specializing in design, construction, and management. They have accomplished an impressive body of work. While their online presence leaves a highly favorable impression, it is the insistence on the location for this housing that is questionable, short-sighted and leaves us shaking our heads, again. Woda Cooper can accomplish Plan B for Rocky Mount, which is the right answer for this housing the Council has decided comes before other issues like infrastructure.

WCC repurposes old buildings for low-income housing. Visit their website to read about success stories in other cities. For example, in order to create affordable places to live in downtown Cleveland, Woda Cooper bought the Stuyvesant Motor Company Building at 1937 Prospect Avenue and built the Prospect Yard apartments. The building was built in 1917 and a stone in the brick at the top of the building still reads “Stuyvesant” after more than a century. The building has 42 apartments, with rent starting at $330 and topping out at $1,247 depending on how large the apartment is.

Members of the City Council and the City Manager decided that this housing must be located downtown, disregarding the current research that says the edges of a Main Street Downtown District need protection from exactly this kind of haphazard planning. This location is in direct conflict with the new emerging Main Street, ECC, and the economic drivers that support downtown businesses. Someone is looking to make money off this project but it will not be the businesses that are a priority in our safekeeping. Rather than plunk this housing cluster in the wrong location, let these ‘development partners’ help us find an appropriate commercial building and repurpose it for workforce housing. However, repurposing a building must keep the integrity of our historic facades intact, adding seamlessly to the historic downtown. This power struggle is not over the need for this housing or welcoming its residence into the life of the new scene downtown, but it is all about location, location, location. I alone, having a temper tantrum in the middle of Main Street, isn’t enough. We need your voice and sphere of influence behind Plan B.