Local News

Public Housing Community Promoting Downtown Growth

Posted December 15, 2006

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— Public housing is often blamed for spoiling development plans and dragging down neighborhoods but a Raleigh subsidized community is actually getting credit for spurring growth.

Raleigh's Capitol Park does not meet the long held stereotype of public housing: It’s clean, it's filled with thoughtful architecture, and villas and townhouses complement rows of colorful single-family houses.

Ten years ago, the same area -- known then as Halifax Court -- branded the stereotype with rampant crime and violence. With the help of a $29 million federal grant, the Raleigh Housing Authority tore it down.

“It's a different kind of public housing,” Allison Hapgood, of the Raleigh Housing Authority, said.

Residents must now clear criminal background checks. They are also required to work. Market-rate rentals are placed randomly through the complex.

“You can't come through here and go, ‘That's public housing and that's not,” Hapgood said. “The idea is you don't know the difference.”

Although the Capitol Park project has won accolades, there is a broader impact on downtown Raleigh.

Once a vacant tract of land, the Village of Pilot Mill sits right across the street from the public housing. The private homes sell from about $400,000 to more than $500,000. The old mill is now home to a charter school and businesses.

“It's really just snowballed into a nice effect for everyone,” said Pilot Mill homeowner Kenny Perry.

As a firefighter, Perry knew Halifax Court well, referring to it as “one of the toughest neighborhoods in Raleigh.” Now, he lives next door.

“If someone had told you three years ago that this would be here, you'd probably thought they were crazy,” he said.

Residents and realtors agree, calling Capitol Park a development catalyst for the area, including Blount Street and the Seaboard complex.

Hapgood likes getting credit instead of blame.

“It's nice to be the thing that uplifted the community,” she said.

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