One of Chapel Hill’s most troubled communities has found an ally in a Durham-based credit union.
Representatives from the Self-Help Credit Union hosted an open house meeting at Town Hall Monday evening to explain their ideas about progress in the town’s Northside community.
Planning for the initiative — which will include the community’s Jackson Center and the University — began in July when the credit union agreed to create and implement improvement plans for the community.
Those involved with the project say collaboration will be key on the long road forward.
“Geographically, it’s the perfect location for collaboration,” said Michael Palmer, senior outreach coordinator for Self-Help and member of the Jackson Center’s board of directors.
Self-Help Credit Union is a non-profit dedicated to providing financial support to low-income communities.
Dan Levine, assistant director of real estate at Self-Help, said the five-year implementation plan should be created by the end of February.
“It’s a range of interconnected ideas that will be carried out over time,” he said.
The historically black and low-income Northside neighborhood has long been home to many University and town employees.
In recent years, traditional residents have faced rising rents and eviction as students flooded the area. The town decided to step in after the community demanded action.
“This is a solution-based approach,” said Loryn Clark, the town’s neighborhood and community services manager.
But the planning group for the project does not want to ostracize students.
“The planning group is thinking of ideas of connecting students and long-term residents,” said Stephanie Barnes-Simms, executive vice president of human resources and administration at Self-Help.
Chapel Hill Town Council member Jim Ward, who attended the open house, raised the point that the University and UNC Hospitals should not be referred to as one entity in conversations about the improvement plan.
Both institutions employ many workers who are unable to live in Chapel Hill.
“I want the conversation to include UNC Hospitals,” he said.
Clark said the funding process will be difficult, a concern Ward echoed.
“Is it too late?” Ward asked.
He said putting money into the community will cause property values and taxes to increase, and eventually, long-term residents will age out.
“It could be that it always will need that infusion of feeding from the town, and I see that as a negative because I’m not sure if that’s sustainable,” he said.
But Levine and Barnes-Simms said there are ways to make the community more attractive, possibly by bringing in more town and University employees.
“The location and value of the land is so great, eventually it will turn into something of even more value,” Levine said.
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