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Charter school at odds with Preservation Durham over old homes

Posted October 16, 2009
Updated October 20, 2009

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— Healthy Start Academy’s plan to move or tear down two homes in Durham’s Morehead Hills neighborhood is causing concern.

The academy, at 807 West Chapel Hill Street, serves kindergarten through eighth grade, and was the first established charter public school in North Carolina.

Healthy Start School considers fate of Morehead Hills home

Liz Morey, executive director of Healthy Start Academy, said the academy’s 330 students need more space to play outside.

"We just want to make sure the kids have the safest and the healthiest place possible to play in,” Morey said.

The school is considering building a playground where two houses from the 1920s sit.

"They are not on the National Historical Register. They are not historic houses. This is an historic neighborhood,” Morey said.

Preservation Durham said the homes, at 804 and 806 Jackson Street, are in local and national historic districts. They want the homes saved.

"To demolish and destroy those two houses would be like knocking out your front two teeth, on that very block,” Durham Councilman Eugene Brown said.

Brown said the city is working to revitalize Morehead Hills. He would like the homes sold with the proceeds going to promote the school’s academics.

Brown, who is also a realtor, said the properties would likely sell for more than their tax value.

"I would suggest $100,000 (to) $115,000 each,” Brown said.

However, Morey said money is not at issue.

"The one thing I do need is land,” Morey said.

Brown suggests the playground be built on property next to the school. But Morey said that land, also owned by the school, is too small.

Morey also said she is studying the possibility of moving the homes, which the school owns. Builders of Hope, which was consulted about the move, said the homes would be extremely difficult to move due to their large size.

The Durham City Council has requested Morey come to a work session next Thursday to talk about the plans for the homes. Healthy Start has not yet filed for permits to begin demolition.


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