Today, Pastor Heather Rodrigues spoke to Durham City Council and asked them to consider Halloween's spirit of accepting the stranger with kindness. She represented the Clergy Caucus of Durham CAN and six collaborating organizations, all advocating for the transformation of the publicly-owned 505 site in downtown Durham, right across from Duke Memorial. Pastor Heather urged the city to make sure their plan benefits everyone in the community by including affordable housing, accessible retail, and inclusive office spaces.
Read her words below:
Council members, Mr. Mayor Pro Tem, and Madame Mayor, I am Rev. Heather Rodrigues, Lead Pastor at Duke Memorial United Methodist Church, located directly across the street from the 505 site.
I have a question: How many of you have children, nieces and nephews or friends who will dress up this year for Halloween?
A pastor I know wrote this: “Halloween is a day when we get it right. Strangers come to us, beautiful, ugly, odd, or scary and we accept them without question, compliment them, treat them kindly and give them good things. Why don’t we live like that?”It’s a beautiful invitation, isn’t it? To live like Halloween, to live in ways that treat people kindly and create ways for them to get good things.
Today I speak on behalf of the the Clergy Caucus of Durham CAN, representing thousands of Durham citizens, and on behalf of six organizations who have come together over the last 3 months: Durham CAN, Duke Memorial, the Coalition on Affordable Housing and Transit, the Durham Committee, People’s Alliance, and the Durham Chapter of the NAACP.
Together, we’ve asked: How might the last significant publicly owned piece of property in downtown be used for good things for all Durham people?
We endorsed a vision statement that we’ve shared with you and City Staff and are excited that many of you share our vision for 505! We’re disappointed that the draft RFP does not reflect this shared vision. It calls for more of the same: a hotel and high end office space….when what we really need is housing and in particular AS MUCH AFFORDABLE HOUSING AS POSSIBLE. Our organizations and constituencies feel strongly that the City does not need – and we should NOT use publicly-owned property for a high end hotel, or more Class A office or lab space.
YES, 505 should include some retail space. But the NEED is for a reasonably priced grocery store and local businesses that serve ALL of Durham, not just those with high income. What we need is affordable office space for service organizations, non-profits, and even small businesses, who struggle to find affordable office space.
Today we ask you to direct city staff to rework the 505 RFP, to Halloween it (so to speak) so that it might be used for good things for all of Durham’s people. The RFP should make it clear that developers who maximize the number of affordable housing units – not just meet a minimum of 80 units – will be scored higher. And developers that address the need for affordable retail and office space will also be scored higher.
Let’s use this publicly owned land for good things for all of our people. Let’s Halloween this thing.
Lead Pastor, Duke Memorial UMC
Durham, NC | 919-218-2129 | firstname.lastname@example.org