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Meeting on housing plan set

Tarboro Parking.jpg

This illustration from city plans shows the original purpose for the Tarboro Street properties was parking spaces for downtown use.

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Rocky Mount city officials are inviting the community to a public information session on the planned downtown multi-family workforce housing development on Tarboro Street.

The session is set for 5 to 7 p.m. April 2 in the Biotech Auditorium at Edgecombe Community College.

The session is scheduled to include an open house from 5 to 6 p.m., a presentation from Development Finance Initiative project manager Sarah Odio at 6 p.m. and a question-and-answer session facilitated by the DFI of UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government.

The Rocky Mount City Council has committed to convey property between 218-242 Tarboro Street via sale or lease to a yet-to-be-determined private development partner, according to a press release from the city.

During the Feb. 25 City Council meeting, Councilwoman Chris Miller asked whether the developer would be private so that the currently city-owned land would become taxable property. Councilman Reuben Blackwell said the developer could be private or it could be a nonprofit developer.

Sure to be at the top of that list is Rocky Mount-Edgecombe Community Development Corp.

Joyce Dickens, president of the Community Development Corp., has been involved with the process since the beginning, according to emails obtained by the Telegram via a public records request.

“I had a call from Joyce Dickens yesterday indicating that you all are planning to build 40 units of housing on the Tarboro site. Please provide us with a project update. Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated,” Landis Faulcon, the city's director of Community and Business Development, said to Odio in a July 14 email. Odio refers to the Tarboro Street location as “the CDC site” in an email to City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney on the same day — that’s eight months before the project went public and any bids could be made. 

Odio acknowledged this week that her reference to “CDC” meant the Rocky Mount-Edgecombe Community Development Corp. Odio also confirmed Dickens' early involvement.

“We spoke to Joyce Dickens several times early on in the process about potentially selecting a CDC site for this project, but we determined that the level of funding available from the state at the time would not be sufficient to support a development there,” Odio said. “RMECDC is welcome to reply to the Solicitation for Development Partner Qualifications, which we are currently drafting. Based on what we hear at the Community Information Session on the 2nd, the Solicitation could go out in mid-April. The city and the state will both have a say in the developer that is selected. We are looking for developers that are eligible for (Low-Income Housing Tax Credit) awards and have experience with federal funding sources such as (Community Development Block Grants).”

A Google search shows Dickens meets those requirements.

The Tarboro Street site was planned to be 80 units, but was scaled back due to available funding and the fact that ECC wanted parking on the spot, not housing, and therefor pulled its property out of the deal, as evidenced in an early August email from Councilman Tom Rogers to City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney.

Rogers referenced an update from Small-Toney stating the Tarboro Street site as the “preferred site.” He asked whether DFI would consider working with the city to find other sites not already considered.

"City has been very encouraging and supportive of ECC's presence and expansion in downtown Rocky Mount over the years," Rogers stated. "In fact, the city actually encouraged ECC's presence in downtown to generate increased activity. The city and ECC collaborated during the acquisition of the Tarboro Street properties. Part of the informal agreement was that the city-owned property would be available for ECC's use, if not ownership in the future. It is my understanding that there is no support for this project by ECC because it locks them in and limits their vision for their presence in downtown.

“Interestingly, the Tiger grant application shows the Tarboro Street properties being used for parking implying its use for ECC, downtown investors and the Event Center."

As part of its Hurricane Matthew recovery effort, North Carolina’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency has committed to providing gap financing for the development of the rental units. This development will serve the city’s workforce with priority given to households displaced by Hurricane Matthew, according to the press release issued by Jessie Nunery, the city's media relations specialist.

The April 2 information session is free. All interested residents are encouraged to attend.

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