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Home > Best Practices > Wilmington, North Carolina’s Taylor Estates Redevelopment Project

 

Wilmington, North Carolina’s Taylor Estates Redevelopment Project

 

The Robert R. Taylor Estates (Taylor Estates) in Wilmington, North Carolina, is a 192-unit affordable housing project that anchors the city’s NorthSide neighborhood. Built on the former site of a public housing complex, Taylor Estates was initiated through an inclusive community planning process that sought to restore a high quality of life to NorthSide. Spurred by a HOPE VI demolition grant, Taylor Estates includes three distinct projects financed with support from the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, and the HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program. The redevelopment includes one of the first residential projects in the state to seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification and a senior home built according to universal design principles. The transformation of the site earned Taylor Estates the HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award in 2012.

Context and General Background

Located between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean, Wilmington was once a thriving port city. In the late 1800s, a vibrant African-American community thrived in the NorthSide neighborhood, just north of the historic downtown. Following a period of social strife at the close of the 19th century, the neighborhood declined, which eventually brought about, in 1939, the development of a public housing complex known as the Robert R. Taylor Homes (Taylor Homes), named in honor of the African-American architect. NorthSide’s business district thrived again until the 1950s, when suburbanization began depleting the neighborhood’s population and business base.1 In the 1970s, the city focused on historic preservation and revitalization of the downtown business district. These efforts focused mostly on Wilmington’s southern section rather than NorthSide, and the effect on the community’s population was marked by significant population change. Between 1990 and 2000, the citywide population increased by over 36 percent, from 55,530 to 75,838, and the number of families in poverty decreased by 4 percent. During that same 10-year period, however, NorthSide’s population increased by only 7 percent, from 4,053 to 4,317, and the number of families in poverty grew by 3 percent.2

The city of Wilmington viewed Taylor Homes as a major impediment to the revitalization of the NorthSide neighborhood.3 The buildings had numerous physical problems, including foundation settlement issues, sewer backups, and mechanical and electrical systems. In many of the units, inadequate air ventilation led to mold, and asbestos and lead paint were used throughout the site.4 The buildings at Taylor Homes were also isolated from and out of character with those of the surrounding neighborhood. The site is at the northernmost edge of Wilmington, about 1 mile from downtown and just east of the Cape Fear River. To the north of the site are railroad tracks, and North 4th Street runs along the western edge. To the east, along North 6th Street, and to the south, along Nixon Street, are residential neighborhoods composed of single-family houses. Before the revitalization, the historic boulevard of North 5th Street, which begins at Greenfield Lake in central Wilmington, extended all the way up to NorthSide before ending at Nixon Street, which prevented access to the Taylor Homes community from the south. The main vehicle entry point was along an east-west access road that split the community and connected North 4th and North 6th streets. The community’s physical isolation was heightened by the barracks-style design of the multifamily buildings, which contrasted sharply with the surrounding neighborhoods of single-family homes. Although much of the NorthSide neighborhood was distressed, the deterioration was most severe in the blocks immediately south of Taylor Homes, where nearly 50 percent of the lots were vacant.5 The city believed that Taylor Homes’ residents were segregated from the rest of the neighborhood, which concentrated poverty, perpetuated an environment of crime and illicit activities, and stigmatized the residents.6

The conditions at Taylor Homes — combined with the city’s plans to connect NorthSide to downtown Wilmington by building the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway along Taylor Homes’ western edge — prompted the community to envision how the quality of life in the neighborhood could be improved. In 2002, the city of Wilmington and the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA), in partnership with citizen and stakeholder groups, developed the NorthSide Community Plan to provide a framework and goals to move the revitalization forward.7 Through extensive public participation, which included more than 50 community meetings, a revitalization plan was formed around six broad themes: crime prevention, economic development, attractive community, housing, community facilities and programs, and transportation.8 Among the items identified as critical to fostering NorthSide’s revitalization was the redevelopment of Taylor Homes into a mixed-income housing development that would be physically and aesthetically integrated with the larger community.9

Financing and Phasing

In 2003, WHA received a HOPE VI grant to demolish buildings on the Taylor Homes site and provide relocation assistance to displaced residents.10 In 2005, demolition was complete, but funding constraints forced WHA to scale back its plans to develop more than 500 units.11 The redevelopment took place as three unique projects carried out in two phases and contains 192 mixed-income units that house 240 low-income Wilmington residents.

The first phase of the redevelopment included the Robert S. Taylor Senior Homes (Taylor Senior Homes) and The Pointe at Taylor Estates (The Pointe). Taylor Senior Homes includes 96 one- and two-bedroom units designed to meet the needs of the elderly population. This project includes housing for residents with incomes up to 80 percent of area median income (AMI) and was financed primarily through $11.5 million in tax credits purchased through the LIHTC program and $200 thousand in HOME program funds. The Pointe includes 48 two- and three-bedroom units designed to meet the needs of families. This project includes housing for residents up to 80 percent of AMI and was also financed primarily with tax credits purchased through the LIHTC program, including $4.4 million in funds, plus $300 thousand in CDBG funds. Although financed separately, both projects shared the same construction timeframe and were completed in August 2008.12

The second phase of the development was the construction of New Brooklyn Homes, which includes 48 units for families up to 60 percent of AMI. Completed in spring 2011, New Brooklyn Homes received more than $4.6 million in tax credits from the LIHTC program and $300 thousand in CDBG funds.13

 

Finance table


Sustainable Design

As the anchor of NorthSide’s revitalization, the primary goals for Taylor Estates were to maximize the number of high-quality housing units, integrate the site with the neighborhood, and strengthen the development’s connections to downtown.14 The architects’ main challenge was integrating and connecting the site’s multifamily housing buildings with the adjacent single-family housing.15 This challenge was overcome by extending North 5th Avenue to the east-west access road, where a new traffic circle with an outer pedestrian circle was built.16 In addition to improving connectivity and onsite circulation, the North 5th Street extension and the traffic and pedestrian circles informed the placement of the housing, parking, and other infrastructure. Buildings front the street, whereas the interior is filled with parking and open spaces that were designed to be accessed through the traffic and pedestrian circle at the center of the site. To preserve the scale of the neighborhood, the architects carefully controlled the buildings’ size, especially where the site’s boundaries abut single-family homes.

On the eastern half of the site is The Pointe, an L-shaped grouping of three buildings — a community center and two residential buildings — that line North 6th and Nixon streets. The community center defines the property’s southeastern corner. Taylor Senior Homes is an H-shaped building on the northeastern section of the site, with the wings of the building running parallel to North 6th Street. To control for the size differences between these two projects and that of the surrounding properties, the design includes building setbacks of more than 30 feet, heights limited to three stories, and variations in the materials and architectural elements on the facades and rooflines, which help foster cohesion where there are differences in depth.17

On the western half of the site, the New Brooklyn Homes development fits more closely with the single-family houses in the surrounding NorthSide neighborhood. The 48 units are distributed among 12 two-story buildings, including 8 buildings with a total of 32 townhouses and 4 buildings with a total of 16 apartments. The houses along North 4th Street have minimal setbacks of between 10 and 15 feet, which create strong edges and maintain continuity with the neighborhood development pattern to the south.18 These setbacks also allowed the architects more flexibility with the interior arrangement of the buildings, which was constrained by the need to preserve the sites’ mature oak trees. A playground and a second community center are located at the southwestern boundary along Nixon Street to strengthen social connections throughout the neighborhood.19

Taylor Estates also promotes environmentally sound design through the efficient use of its 13 acres of land. The site incorporates rain gardens and a series of underground catchment chambers to manage stormwater.20 A portion of the stormwater captured on the site is stored and used to irrigate the native plants used in the project’s landscaping (a strategy known as xeriscaping). To maximize the sites’ green space and reduce impervious cover, the developers of Taylor Senior Homes took advantage of the zoning code’s reduced parking schedule, which allows as few as 1 space per 2 elderly housing units.21

The sustainable features included in the site plan make the redevelopment one of the “greenest” projects in the state. Once certified, New Brooklyn Homes will be among North Carolina’s first publicly funded residential projects with LEED Platinum-certified units.22 From the selection of locally sourced materials to framing techniques that reduce timber use, strategies that promote resource stewardship were used in all facets of the project. All of the units in New Brooklyn Homes are Energy Star®-certified and include high-efficiency windows, lighting, and heating and air conditioning systems, as well as closed-cell foam insulation. As part of the LEED for Homes certification process, residents received a training manual and a 1-hour walkthrough detailing the proper operations of their unit’s systems and the benefits of LEED certification.23

At Taylor Senior Homes, sustainability extends beyond considerations of natural resources to include the principles of universal design, which hold that environments, products, and spaces should remain accessible to all people regardless of age or physical ability so residents can age in place.24 Taylor Senior Homes’ design includes 36-inch-wide doors and 5-foot turnaround areas in the kitchens and bathrooms for wheelchair accessibility, fully accessible refrigerators and freezers, 34-inch-high kitchen countertops, walls and trim with contrasting colors, and carpet surfaces designed for mobility. Currently, 10 units are ADA accessible, but each unit can be converted from its universal design to a fully ADA accessible unit as the needs of the residents change.25

Experience Gained

The redevelopment of Taylor Homes into Taylor Estates has transformed housing conditions in Wilmington’s NorthSide neighborhood and has been critically important to the city’s revitalization plans. WHA believes that changes are already apparent in the neighborhood, and cites the presence of a transit bus that connects Taylor Estates to downtown, services provided to the community from more than 40 community partners (such as education and job training), and a reduction in area crime as evidence of the neighborhood’s revitalization.26 The deteriorated buildings that characterized the site before its redevelopment have been replaced with high-quality housing units and strategically located community amenities that serve the needs of 240 Wilmington residents. The redevelopment includes one of North Carolina’s first publicly funded residential projects built to meet LEED Platinum certification and a senior home built to universal design standards. The efforts of the city of Wilmington and WHA to secure three individual financing packages to ensure the development’s success provide a lesson on the importance of leadership and perseverance in the face of difficult funding environments.


  1. Wilmington Housing Authority. “Robert R. Taylor HOPE VI Revitalization Grant Application, Exhibit C,” 52–53.

  2. City of Wilmington. “A Community Plan: NorthSide,” 4–6. Accessed 30 May 2012.

  3. Wilmington Housing Authority. “Robert R. Taylor HOPE VI Revitalization Grant Application, Exhibit A,” 1.

  4. Wilmington Housing Authority. “Robert R. Taylor HOPE VI Revitalization Grant Application, Exhibit C,” 47-51.

  5. Wilmington Housing Authority. “Robert R. Taylor HOPE VI Revitalization Grant Application, Exhibit A,” 1; Wilmington Housing Authority. “Robert R. Taylor HOPE VI Revitalization Grant Application, Exhibit C,” 55–59.

  6. Wilmington Housing Authority. “Robert R. Taylor HOPE VI Revitalization Grant Application, Exhibit A,” 1;

  7. City of Wilmington. “A Community Plan: NorthSide,” 1–2. Accessed 30 May 2012.

  8. Wilmington Housing Authority. “Robert R. Taylor HOPE VI Revitalization Grant Application, Exhibit C,” 55.

  9. City of Wilmington. “A Community Plan: NorthSide,” 5-1, 5-5. Accessed 30 May 2012.

  10. Wilmington Housing Authority. “Robert R. Taylor HOPE VI Revitalization Grant Application, Exhibit C,” 56.

  11. Wilmington Housing Authority. “Completed Projects.” Accessed 6 July 2012; The Communities Group. “Neighborhood Planning and Revitalization: Robert R. Taylor – NorthSide Revitalization Wilmington, North Carolina.” Brochure prepared for the Wilmington Housing Authority, 1; interview with Glenn Floyd, project manager, Wilmington Housing Authority, 24 May 2012.

  12. Internal documents provided by the American Planning Association, “The HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award Nomination,” 2–3.

  13. Ibid., 2-3.

  14. Interview with Glenn Floyd.

  15. Interview with Don Tise, principal, Tise-Kiester Architects, 1 June 12.

  16. Ibid.

  17. Ibid.; internal documents provided by Tise-Kiester Architects.

  18. Ibid.

  19. Ibid.; internal documents provided by Tise-Kiester Architects.

  20. Interview with Glenn Floyd.

  21. City of Wilmington. 2010. Land Development Code, chapter 18, article 9, Section 18-532. Accessed 1 June 2012.

  22. American Builders Quarterly. July/August 2011. “Through the Years: Wilmington Housing Authority,” 61. Accessed 1 June 2012.

  23. E-mail correspondence with Craig Carbrey, Tise-Kiester Architects, 4 June 2012.

  24. National Association of Home Builders and Barrier Free Environments, Inc. 1996. “Residential Remodeling and Universal Design: Making Homes More Comfortable and Accessible.” Report prepared for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. Accessed 1 June 2012.

  25. Internal documents provided by Tise-Kiester Architects.

  26. Internal documents provided by the American Planning Association, “The HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award Nomination,” 2.

 
 
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