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EmPOWERment breaks ground on PEACH development, marks new milestone for the project

107 Johnson St. recently underwent a goundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the Peach Apartments that will be built at that location.

The PEACH apartments — an affordable housing project sponsored by EmPOWERment, Inc., and located in Pine Knolls, a historically black neighborhood in Chapel Hill — broke ground on Oct. 17, marking a new milestone for affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

PEACH stands for Pine Knolls Empowerment Affordable Community Housing.

The PEACH apartments have 10 rental units available for families earning 30 percent or less of the area's median income.

The household median income for Chapel Hill is $77,037, meaning residents of the PEACH apartments will be earning less than $23,111.

Delores Bailey, the executive director of EmPOWERment, Inc., said that for her, the groundbreaking was an opportunity to set the atmosphere of what PEACH apartments will mean for the community. 

“This is a project that is being constructed and developed by five African American women with lived experience,” she said. “Our combined experience is probably over 50 years and we have the opportunity to break ground on something that is historic.” 

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said the groundbreaking was emotional for her because of how the community came together. Over 150 community members came to the groundbreaking to celebrate EmPOWERment's work.

“It was incredible to me, I did not expect that many people would show up,” Bailey said.

EmPOWERment, raised $3.5 million to build the PEACH apartments through a zero-debt financed project. 

Chapel Hill Town Council member Tai Huynh said that serving people earning under 30 percent of the area's median income is a difficult thing to do in the affordable housing world because it requires a lot of investment and subsidy.

“But this project shows what is possible when the county and federal government all come together to invest in projects like this that serve our most vulnerable members,” Huynh said. 

EmPOWERment partnered with the Town for the development of PEACH. 

The Town donated over $1 million to this project and donated the land for the apartments. Retired U.S. Rep. David Price also helped secure federal funding for the project.

“I just can't say enough about how putting partnerships together to make affordable housing, in reality, takes time and persistence," Hemminger said.

Bailey said before EmPOWERment owned the property the apartments are being built on, it belonged to the Pine Knolls Association Board.

“I actually knew that property when the Pine Knolls Community Center was there," Bailey said. "I also watched it fall into disrepair, and then just wondered, ‘What is going to happen with that?’”

Bailey said housing is the largest need in Orange County and it is not being addressed well by commercial builders.

“Honestly, other nonprofits that are building in this area are very expensive,” she said. 

Bailey said developments like PEACH are important because they help maintain racial and economic diversity in the community. She also said PEACH represents people of all income levels. 

"Affordable housing is important for everyone, so when we think about that, we cannot forget about everyone,” she said. 

Hemminger said the PEACH apartments will be family-oriented. 

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“It's in a great walkable neighborhood close to schools close to transit close to downtown," she said. "It's a perfect place for people who are working in our community to live."

For Bailey, this is just the beginning.

“This is just PEACH one," she said. "I’ve got my eyes set on two, three and four before this is all over with."  

@DTHCityState |

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