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Rehabilitated senior housing reopens in downtown Durham

EJP is proud to partner with Durham Housing Authority on the effort to revitalize and increase access to affordable housing in downtown Durham. EJP led the planning effort for the Downtown Durham Neighborhood Plan (DDNP) and now provides technical assistance on the implementation of the plan.

Federal, state and local officials, and community members gathered on Friday to celebrate the grand reopening of JJ Henderson Tower, a longstanding and cherished affordable senior housing center near downtown Durham.

The 177-unit tower has been renovated to include HVAC air quality systems, a new roof, interior unit renovations with added accessibility, energy efficient appliances and other system upgrades. The renovation cost $31.2 million and was co-developed by Durham Housing Authority and its partners, California Commercial Investment and The Florian Companies.

A renovated room at JJ Henderson in Durham.

Henderson’s son and grandson shared some remarks, along with Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal, Congressman David Price, resident Virginia Williams, and representatives from DHA and its partners.

O’Neal said this rehabilitation represents the first iteration of DHA’s Downtown and Neighborhood Plan, a collaborative initiative to replace 447 downtown units with public housing and bring an additional 2,000 affordable units to the area.

“We are happy to know that we are making an effort that our affordable housing options are available, even in the most expensive real estate in most people's cities,” she said. “Downtown is for everybody.”

Florian Company Founder and CEO John Florian said the renovation was delayed three months but completed under budget and on time. “When we did a structural analysis of this building, we had no issues,” he said. “This building was really ahead of its time.”

Residents remained onsite during the renovation period, said DHA CEO Anthony Scott, and only around 10 families were relocated to alternative housing. He said most residents moved only once from their existing unit to their newly renovated unit and accessibility was built into most units with railings, lower cabinets, and rolling showers.

An updated bathroom in JJ Henderson.

Williams, a resident since 1999, said, for her, JJ Henderson Tower means comfort and convenience. She can catch the bus right outside, walk a short distance to the Mellow Mushroom pizza shop, and ring the bell by her bedside for help.

“I’m happy to be here, and I don’t know what would make me leave,” she said.

Levette Reams, a StepUp Durham representative, a local nonprofit that offers free employment training services, said affordable housing is crucial for seniors because Social Security checks are the only source of income for many.

“It's not conducive for their lifestyle. They can't pay the utilities, rent is going up, inflation is going up,” she said. “It's important for elderly people to have a safe, sufficient, secure place for them to be able to stay, have community meetings [and] exercise.”

by Mia Khatib

Published Monday, October 31, 2022


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