Will The City We Love Be a City For All?

Demolition and construction continues in Durham, North Carolina's Southside neighborhood. Non profits have partnered with the city of Durham to reclaim land in the neighborhood for an urban renewal project. The goal is to drive out slumlords and drug dealers and build nicer and affordable housing and revitalize the area. But some Southside residents are weary of gentrification and urban infill in their proud, historically black neighborhood. They look to past urban renewal projects in Durham, including the construction of the Durham Freeway, that they feel dislocated a once centralized and vibrant black community. Many residents dub these projects "Urban Removal."

Since 2001, the Downtown Durham Loop has seen an investment of $1.7 billion dollars.

Luxury apartments, tech start ups, and world-class restaurants have been the result. Upon immediate inspection, this is great for Durham. Who wouldn’t want nice homes, restaurants, and economic atmospheres to be so accessible in the middle of the city? After all, even 15 years ago one did not go into Downtown Durham after dark.

Generations of people who have lived in and around the downtown area; that’s who.

The massive investment and revitalization of the 0.8 square mile area has led to nothing short of gentrification. Put simply, families who have been in their homes and in the area for generations cannot afford their rent any more due to skyrocketing prices. They are getting pushed east and north.


(Mayor Bill Bell Has Overseen a Bull City Renaissance. So Why Has Durham’s Poverty Rate Gone Up on His Watch?)


This has help lead to the increase in poverty rate in Durham that we’ve seen over the past two decades. Where the poverty rate was 15% in 2000, it was 19.2% in 2015. Durham is now above the county and state’s rates – 13.5% for the county and 17.4% for the state.

Not only has the poverty rate in Durham shot up, but 48.7% of the people living below it are black.

The increase in Durham’s wealth has not been enjoyed by all and this begs the question, “will the city we love be a city for all?” – Councilman Steve Schewel.


(Featured image credit: Justin Cook)

About Ray Palma 12 Articles
Hi, I'm Raymond T. Palma, and I am currently a Junior at Riverside High School in Durham, North Carolina. My email is raytpalma@gmail.com

1 Comment

  1. Lovely article! I have noticed all the innovations taking place in downtown Durham and recognized it as an act of gentrification, but I never really realized how big of an impact it had on our poverty rates. Can’t wait to see what Schewel will do about it!

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