New Bern and Craven Terrace
The City of New Bern, North Carolina, is located at the confluence of the Trent and Neuse Rivers, near the Atlantic coast. New Bern is both North Carolina's second oldest town, dating back to the 1700's, and its original state capital. It boasts a quaint historic district complete with a governor's palace, old clock tower, well-kept parks, and winding pedestrian paths.
The first section of Craven Terrace was built in 1942, and the second was finished in 1952. The property was registered on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Since the original development of the property, it has been owned and operated by NBHA. Faced with deferred maintenance challenges that included failing sewer lines, collapsing roofs, and deteriorating window framing, NBHA partnered with Evergreen Partners and TCG Development in 2015 to redevelop and renovate the property. The RAD conversion was completed in December 2015. The renovation project began in April 2016 and was completed in March 2018.
The transformation planning process afforded the RAC an opportunity to hold focus groups with residents to identify ways to improve their community and make Craven Terrace a safer place to live.
When RAD first came up for discussion in the community, it was "a hard sell." Through focus groups, newsletters, open resident meetings, Q&A sessions, and a change in leadership on the RAC, residents became open to the improvements as they were able to provide input on the renovations.
"It’s always good when someone makes you aware of what’s going to happen, [rather] than—BOOM—it just happens," Ms. Sampson observed. "They take time out—the questions you ask; they don’t let any questions sit."
Improvements that modernized the apartments in Craven Terrace included: re-configuring the interiors of each apartment; up-sizing kitchen appliances; improving ceilings, floors, windows, and interior and exterior doors; adding HVAC units, and incorporating green-building standards that decreased energy consumption and associated costs.
"WHEN PRESERVATION MANAGEMENT CAME, I FELT THEY WANTED THE SAME THING I WANTED HERE IN CRAVEN TERRACE." ~ RESIDENT CATHY WRIGHT-DIXON
Dawn Ward was pleased about the renovations in her kitchen. “Oh, you know I love that bigger stove. I can cook that turkey, I can cook some stuffing and everything in it at the same time. And that big refrigerator—I love it," she shared. But the changes to her apartment aren't the only thing that excited her. She also actively attends events held in the new community room and signed up for as many classes as possible with the hopes of improving herself.
Tenants experienced no displacement by moving to vacant units during the renovations with the first right-to-return when the renovations were completed.
Other major transformations include improvements to safety through security cameras, a well-lit outdoor space, and an increased police presence on site. Residents feel their community is a much safer place to live.
To strengthen a sense of community and to accommodate the elderly and people with disabilities living in Craven Terrace, benches were placed in clusters around the neighborhood and in the community garden. In the garden, names are carved into the wood of the benches to honor members of the community. In one special tradition, each girl who becomes a member of the community girls' club has her name ceremoniously carved into one of the benches.
Ms. Dillahunt, who walks with a cane, especially loves the benches, noting that they helped the community become more integrated. “That was a really nice touch," she said with a smile. “We gave our suggestions and I think they went beyond. They really did.”
“WE HAVE PEOPLE OUT HERE WHO CARE ABOUT THE COMMUNITY AND THEY WANTED TO SEE IT GROW; SEE IT BECOME BETTER AS TIME GOES ON. WE HAVE SEEN A LOT OF CHANGES.” ~ GWEN DILAHUNT
One of the Craven Terrance buildings was converted into a community services block, providing residents with services designed specifically for the Craven Terrace community such as office and meeting space for the Resident Coordinators and the RAC. The services include an art and education space, a food bank operation center, and a trauma care center with community programs for victims of domestic and sexual violence. Local police also have a private room to meet confidentially with residents who may have public safety concerns or require incident debriefing. Physically locating these units within the heart of Craven Terrace demonstrates the priority placed on the well-being and growth of residents.
A unit in the community services block is a food pantry, where residents can "go shopping" for items they need. It includes both shelves of dry and canned goods as well as two deep freezers for perishable items.
In the coming months, the non-profit Promise Place will implement therapy sessions and trauma-informed yoga classes and will provide up to four months of transitional housing
Feeling at Home
"I BELIEVE THAT PUBLIC HOUSING SHOULD BE A STEPPING STONE. IT SHOULD NOT BE A PERMANENT RESIDENCE." ~ VICTOR TAYLOR
Victor Taylor is a retired Army Veteran and from 2009–2017, he was a New Bern City Alderman. Born in Craven Terrace, with the help of a midwife, he was inspired to run for office and represent his community.
"Since they started the renovation of this area, the crime has gone down. Apartments now are marvelous. And this building here—we’ve never seen anything like this. This is something that I always wanted to champion. Things they can actually walk to—the food bank. All these different apartments are geared towards different resources. If they’re able to, people want to succeed. But they have limitations, they have stumbling blocks. Transportation was [one of the] stumbling blocks... When they brought [the community resource center] here, it was right in your front door or your back door and you could actually walk to it. So when they started doing this, I was like, this is marvelous."
Taylor states that "If we value your community, eventually the residents will start valuing their own community and they are going to keep their community safe and clean."
The conversion to RAD and the subsequent transformation of Craven Terrace has changed everything for the community. Not only are the buildings restored to their original beauty with strong, lasting materials, but safety has increased and much needed services were brought into the heart of the community. Residents feel heard and hopeful. Classes and community events—including historical reenactments from the Civil War—are shining a light on the past and opening a door into the future.
Now residents have a literacy program and access to several computers. The literacy program is only one of many classes and workshops offered to residents. All of the programs have the same intent: to help residents grow and build a better, stronger, vibrant community in New Bern.
Photos and Story by Heather Hill / The Cloudburst Group