Change is coming to the historic Harriet Tubman YWCA.
On Monday, Durham community members accepted a $1 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to restore and renovate the historic location at 312 Umstead Street near the Hayti district just south of downtown into affordable housing.
The center will be renovated by Reinvestment Partners, a Durham nonprofit that seeks to revitalize locations with a focus on positively impacting communities and combating social inequities.
According to the group, the Harriet Tubman building was first built in 1953. The building originally contained 12 women’s dorms that housed Black student nurses, and was a community hub for events and organizing, especially during the Civil Rights Movement. Yet the center ceased operations in the 1970s, and has been fully inactive for 30 years.
Peter Skillern, executive director of Reinvestment Partners, told ABC News 11 that the renovation will include six studio apartments, alongside a congregate area that will include offices, computers and a kitchen. The units will be rented specifically to those making 30-60 percent or less of the area median income, and at least four units will be allocated to individuals who have formerly experienced homeless, or come from other special needs groups.
“We’ll be able to provide both services and housing here,” Skillern said. “That’s building back better.”
Despite its historical significance, the building was nearly demolished in 2018, following concerns over unsafe building conditions and reports of illegal activity on the property.
When the community voiced concerns over its historical significance, the demolition was put on hold, and in 2019, Reinvestment Partners purchased the building.
Skillern said renovation will seek to keep the building as historically preserved as possible. The renovation is expected to take approximately 18 months.
In an interview with the station, Mayor Elaine O’Neal recounted spending time at the center growing up, and expressed excitement for its new purpose.
“Thank you for bringing a part of my life back alive and for all of those young people and all of the memories that were made,” O’Neal said. “We want them to now have a chance of a new generation of memories like I did, and they too can grow up and be mayor.”
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