Man breathes life into neighborhood
BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Sunday, February 3, 2019
Troy Davis' story is one of redemption the Rocky Mount way.
Davis, 31, grew up in the Ward 1 neighborhood of Meadowbrook.
"My mom lives there, my grandmother lives there, I live there," Davis said Thursday morning while sitting at his desk in his Starling Way office surrounded by friends and supporters.
In 2004, Davis at 17 was the center of the largest identity theft case in Edgecombe County history.
Today, Davis is at the center of redevelopment in south Rocky Mount, having borrowed and invested $1.2 million in turning around Starling Way, a housing project that many thought had seen it final days.
Davis said recent attacks against him on social media are par for the course. He spoke candidly with the Telegram about his criminal past — something he didn't have to do since all his records have been expunged. He said he got into trouble and spent time in prison on nonviolent, non-drug related charges. He did his time and found a new, better way to live.
Davis, who has a degree in computer science, learned his construction trade in the field. He said he purchased an owner-financed property and it was off to the races. Davis has remodeled more than 200 properties in Rocky Mount in the past few years.
Twin County Hall of Famer Jean Almand Kitchin said south Rocky Mount owes a debt to Davis.
"This community couldn't have gotten here without you," Kitchin told Davis on Thursday as they walked around the quiet, clean Starling Way.
Bishop Shelton Daniel, pastor of Greater Joy Church, said Davis is the hero the community needed.
"This young man came into my community to get boards off windows," Daniel said.
Joy CDC received a $150,000 grant from the city to help with Starling Way renovations. Daniel said any notion that the money was part of a kickback is ridiculous.
"We are helping this young man make things better," he said.
Gary Corts, an upstate New Yorker rebuilding neighborhoods along Cokey Road, said Davis is changing the face of south Rocky Mount.
"This road looked like Afghanistan before Troy," Corts said of Starling Way. "That $150,000 didn't even put roofs on this place. Look at Troy's high-end finishes."
A tour of Starling Way off Raleigh Road revealed condo units with granite counter tops, fresh paint, new appliances and Roku television sets.
"At night this place is lit up like Panther Stadium," Corts said, pointing at one of the many LED lightpoles around the subdivision.
Corts said he became friends with Davis while they competed for property.
"Troy's the future," said the 57-year-old Corts. "I tell him all the time, 'Run for City Council.'"
Corts said he chose Rocky Mount a few years ago because it was redevelopment-friendly back then.
"I won't invest in a town if they're going to give me a hard time," Corts said. "I'll take my money elsewhere."
Corts said the permitting process in Rocky Mount needs improvement. He said installing a window shouldn't require a permit.
Davis said the city has hired some great inspectors, including some with firefighter experience that gives them knowledge about new builds versus remodeling.
However, Davis said the hopes of a lot of construction contractors that permitting would become streamlined ended with the departure of Assistant City Manager Tasha Logan Ford.
Davis said Ford had been working to improve the permitting process. Ford was also in charge of Startup in a Day, an Obama White House initiative in which Rocky Mount was one of 25 cities nationwide — one of two in North Carolina — selected to receive a $50,000 grant to assist in the development of an online portal for entrepreneurs to obtain necessary permits and licenses.
Ford and Ken Graves, the city's former planning and development director, worked on the project together.
“We want Rocky Mount to be more business-friendly,” Graves told the Telegram in an August 2015 article about the purpose of the project.
The Startup in a Day tool was nixed within months of the July 2017 arrival of City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney.
Graves left city employ in October 2017, followed by Ford in January 2018.