Ceremonial shovels were turned Thursday morning along Tarboro Street at the site of the future Five Points Crossing affordable housing development, with the hope being that people can return in the summer of 2023 to see a completed project.
Woda Cooper Companies at a cost of $9.4 million is going to be building a four-story structure, very much in an urban style, with a flat roof and an elevator.
The structure will have 28 one-bedroom units and 22 two-bedroom units and will include six units with features for those with disabilities.
There were four speakers during the gathering, with Councilman Andre Knight giving the most detailed remarks.
Knight said Councilman Reuben Blackwell, in whose ward the future development is located, could not be present for the gathering due to a commitment to a prior engagement.
“But Councilman Blackwell and I have been a strong supporter of this development since its conception,” Knight said.
“Today’s groundbreaking for Five Points Crossing shows the patience and the perseverance by the city and its partners for its success,” Knight said. “This project could not have happened overnight, but it’s happening now.
“Five Points Crossing is the key accomplishment in the city’s effort to provide first-rate affordable housing for its residents,” he said.
Knight emphasized his belief that the future Five Points Crossing development will be an appealing place to live, given there will be amenities such as a community room, fitness room, playground, covered picnic area with barbecue grills and covered rooftop terrace.
“We had a lot of opposition about this particular location, but this council stayed the course,” he said. “We fought off the opposition. We continued to work with the developers. Every time they asked for an extension, we granted that — and that’s why we are here today.
“And God has brought us from a mighty long way,” he said. “And I’m so glad that we are here today to celebrate.”
Among his other remarks, he said that when one looks at Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte and some other places, there are many people looking for affordable housing and rents are a lot higher than they are in Rocky Mount.
He spoke of himself and others wanting Rocky Mount, especially downtown, to have working-class people and to have children playing.
“Rocky Mount is for everyone,” he said. “And so that’s why we’re so happy to have this affordable housing in downtown. I see Five Points Crossing as a significant step in our journey to create an equitable community with thriving neighborhoods and a dramatic downtown.
“We have a long ways to go, but today this groundbreaking shows that Rocky Mount is on the right path,” he said.
Moments earlier, Councilman T.J. Walker, who is doubling as mayor pro tem in 2022, said that two of Rocky Mount’s priorities include the redevelopment of downtown and having affordable housing.
Walker said that he believes Five Points Crossing will help address both of those needs.
Specifically, Walker said that he believes the 50 units will provide much-needed affordable housing for hardworking residents in Rocky Mount.
“It also will increase foot traffic for nearby restaurants and shops,” he said. “Having more individuals live within downtown is a key and vital part of creating a vibrant central business district.”
The reason Woda Cooper Companies asked for and received extensions was due to the financing structure needing to be in place for such a project.
Denis Blackburne, a Southeastern region-based senior vice president of Woda Cooper who led the gathering Thursday, asked Charles Mullen and Tracy Colores to speak.
Mullen is a native of Rocky Mount, a homebuilder and a member of the board of the N.C. Housing Financing Agency.
The N.C. Housing Finance Agency is a self-supporting public organization created in 1973 by the General Assembly and finances affordable housing opportunities for North Carolinians whose needs are not met by the market.
Mullen told the gathering, “High quality and affordable homes are the foundation of strong families and strong communities. And we’re proud to be a part of this major investment in Rocky Mount — and I look forward, too, to coming back when we cut that ribbon and have those refreshments inside.”
Colores is the community development director of the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency.
The N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency manages programs statewide that include homeowner recovery, infrastructure, affordable housing, resiliency, strategic buyouts and local government grants and loans.
Colores told the gathering the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency presently has nearly $70 million in projects underway for multifamily rental housing in different parts of eastern North Carolina affected by hurricanes.
“But the reason this project stands out is simply because of the support of the City of Rocky Mount and all of its avenues towards supporting the development to move along more quickly when it comes to things like permitting and inspections and the kind of support that local governments can use to make a difference in building other affordable housing of this type,” Colores said.
“We very much look forward to continuing this partnership — and we are very grateful for the opportunity to participate here,” Colores said.
Among those at the gathering were Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris and Councilman-elect Tom Harris.
Farris was elated afterward, saying, “I think it’s a big win for the City of Rocky Mount and particularly downtown.”
Farris, when asked, also said he believes it is a real positive in terms of having future additional investment downtown.
“One, you’ll have more people living down here. Two, success breeds success,” Farris said.
Harris said the project is “another example of how both private and public investment can be done.”
“It takes a lot of hard work,” he said, “but one thing I’m an advocate of is more private-public partnership.”
The 50 units at the future Five Points Crossing will be reserved for people who earn up to 60 percent of the area’s median income. Generally, the median income is the income for a household at the midpoint for all household incomes reported for data.
The site, which is slightly more than 1.3 acres and vacant, is just southeast of downtown’s Five Points intersection and across Tarboro Street from Edgecombe Community College’s Rocky Mount campus.
The City Council in March 2020 voted to go with Woda Cooper as the development partner for the proposed project.
The previous council in February 2019 voted to convey what at the time was municipally owned property, via sale or lease, for the development of affordable housing, subject to the selection of a developer. Woda Cooper acquired the property.
Woda Cooper was established in 1990 and is privately owned and headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.