What To Do With 118 S. Driver Street? Part 4

Published by info@preservationdurham.org on

Whoever purchases 118 S. Driver is moving into a great neighborhood.

Yes, the secret is out.

shepherds house

Shepherds House United Methodist Church, at the corner of E. Main and N. Driver Street. in the heart of Old East Durham

Just 2+ years ago, back in 2012, I had to really talk East Durham up to people who were looking to buy. Now I have people coming to me saying, “We’re looking to buy a bungalow in East Durham”. That’s a huge change.
Part of its appeal is that it’s one of the few places in Durham where you can still buy a house for under $100,000 (though even that is becoming difficult). For cost conscious buyers who are willing to put in some elbow grease, and even more of their heart into their community, East Durham is the place to be.

Why? In addition to the affordable prices and raw inventory of houses with great character, it has a great sense of community.

reovations by RED

Renovations by Project RED. A collaboration between Preservation NC and Preservation Durham. Before and after images of 213 S. Driver Street, above and 106 N. Driver Street, below. Photos courtesy of Open Durham.

This didn’t happen overnight. It’s due to the hard work of those who moved into the neighborhood decades ago and worked tirelessly to inventory abandoned houses and work with NIS to board them up instead of tearing them down. It’s due to the online community discussions and meetings and events planned by Uplift East Durham and Communities in Partnership. It’s due to educational assets like theEast Durham Children’s Initiative, Maureen Joy Charter School and the Holton Career and Resource Center. It’s due to local investment from Self Help Credit Union and to work by Habitat for Humanity and Project RED to rehab properties for new homeowners.

In other words, it takes a village.

The great community you see now is a result of over 30 years of organizing by many other resident-run groups and countless unpaid hours by neighbors.  This area may be one of the poorest census tracts in Durham but it has never been poor in willingness to take the steps to be a better community.

Momentum also plays a part; once more and more people make an effort, the commitment to community and stability changes. In turn, they attract others who are likewise invested in making the neighborhood a safe and vibrant place. They’re not just taking it for what it is, they’re actively improving it.

Before anyone reads into my comments and assumes I’m a booster for gentrification, let me be clear: investment and gentrification are two different things. 

Investment is good; it brings life to empty houses, beautifies the neighborhood, decreases police patrols and arrests, increases opportunity for residents, and puts money into the coffers of local government by giving value to previously value-less houses.
Gentrification, the pushing out of an original or long-term population for economic reasons, can be a by-product of investment, but it’s not inevitable.


This is a balance that many in East Durham are eager to maintain. And for the most part, the raw materials of the neighborhood – small, originally working class mill houses – mean that while it will have investment, it will always appeal to a middle class population.

And so, to the new owners of 118 S. Driver Street: Welcome to the neighborhood!