Aldermen inch their way to a Carolina Avenue project Pembroke residents oppose

The city inched forward in a process that could lead to an 80-unit apartment complex off Carolina Avenue that would house some Trent Court residents to enable the New Bern Housing Authority to begin razing and replacing buildings in Trent Court.

The Housing Authority has offered $200,000 for an 8-acre parcel off Carolina Avenue, which is off Trent Road.

The Carolina Avenue property sought for purchase by the New Bern Housing Authority is shown boxed in yellow. The Pembroke Community is above and to the right of the lake shown in this aerial view.

Aldermen voted 6-1 to have the parcel appraised, a non-committal way of keeping the concept alive without actually approving it. Baby steps … baby steps.

The motion was made by Ward 6 Alderman Jeffrey Odham and seconded by Ward 3 Alderman Bobby Aster. What’s interesting about that is its break from tradition. Often a motion is made by the alderman in whose ward a project is located.

Carolina Avenue is in Alderwoman Jameesha Harris’s Ward 2, but Harris has opposed the proposed property sale and building project, echoing strong opposition from residents of the nearby Pembroke neighborhood.

Pembroke residents have opposed the idea of Trent Court residents moving near their community, fearing that doing so would bring Trent Court problems to Pembroke.

The Carolina Avenue is near Pembroke, although there is no direct access between the two locations.

Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney, left, and Housing Authority Board Member Joseph Anderson speak to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday. Randy Foster/Post

Housing Authority Executive Director Martin Blaney in a previous interview with the Post said there had been a lengthy search for a property suitable for a 80-unit apartment complex that would qualify for low income tax credits. The credits are awarded competitively, once a year. Higher scores go to projects that are close to shopping, far from microwave transmitters and railroad tracks, as well as several other factors.

The project must also fit the Housing Authority’s budget.

A search of the New Bern area turned up no suitable leads until it stumbled across the Carolina Avenue property, which is owned by the city. It scored highly on all the requirements, so Blaney approached the city to inquire about a sale.

That’s where Harris entered the picture, along with residents of the Pembroke Community. Following several community meetings in Pembroke, representatives appeared before the Board of Aldermen during the early July meeting to oppose the Carolina Avenue project.

Harris has been outspoken about the proposal, previously calling it “gentrification. Although she opposed even an appraisal of the property, she was less vigorous in her opposition during Tuesday’s meeting.

But if anyone was waiting for her to make any motion that would move the process forward, they were in for a long wait. That’s when Odham stepped in, making the motion for the appraisal.

The plan to raze and replace Trent Court is part of a larger Greater Five Points Transformation Plan that was released in 2016. Recommendations in the plan have already been implemented in the Craven Terrace neighborhood, which is also a Housing Authority project.

Many of Trent Court’s pre- and post-World War II buildings are located in a Lawson Creek flood zone. No more money will be put into repairing the buildings the next time flooding occurs, thus the Housing Authority is under the gun to move forward with the plan.

The plan calls for replacing dilapidated buildings and replacing them with townhouse-style apartments catering to mixed income levels. Areas directly in the flood zone would be turned into parkland and open space.

A representative of the development company that won the contract to rebuild Trent Court listens to Tuesday’s discussion about Carolina Avenue. Randy Foster/Post

July 24th, 2018 by
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