Traditional Neighborhood Design in Winfall, NC



Community Development Corporations are commonly not-for-profit organizations incorporated to provide programs, offer services and/or engage in other activities that promote and support community development. CDCs typically serve a geographic location such as a neighborhood or a town.

Such is the case for the Northern Community Development Corporation of North Carolina, serving the rural counties and communities of northeastern NC. In 2009 it partnered with the Black Family Land Trust to fund the planning and startup administration for an affordable housing project in Winfall NC. Private land on the Perquimans River was committed to the development, to be marketed to individual homeowners, 50% market rate, 50% affordable. A portion of the project site existed as a community park, boarded by the Windfall Town Hall building with an additional 3 acres of vacant land, formerly a slag dump, surrounded by neighboring farms and homestead properties.

The project met the mission objectives of the sponsoring non-profit entities: for NCDC, to increase low income housing opportunities and workforce homeownership; providing equitable socio-economic opportunities for minority populations. It also met the land conservation objectives of the Black Family Trust to provide educational, technical and financial services to ensure, protect, and preserve African American land ownership.

With the property pledged to the project, funds were allocated by the partnership to hire an architectural firm well experienced in the planning and design of affordable house plans for small lots in the character of Traditional Neighborhood Design (architecturally consistent with the historical character of the surrounding communities). The funds also provided for the consulting services of a renowned landscape planner, site designer, author and lecturer who would conceptualize the overall plan development plan.

The master plan of the site as well as the individual house plan designs were provided by GMF+ ASSOCIATES, architects, and Randall Arendt of Greener Prospects. Some of the final presentation designs are shown on this site. What wasn’t anticipated was the political ambivalence that upended the good intentions of the humanitarian and conservation objectives of the non-profit sponsors, the diligence of the design professionals and the generosity of the land-developer.

Throughout the course of the planning studies there were meetings with the mayor, town council, fire department, public works, surrounding land owners and other interested parties. Review of the preliminary plans at the meetings brought out concerns for specific details of the project such as fire truck street access, separation distance between dwellings, the overall density of the development, parking, sidewalks, and so on. At each meeting the questions raised were addressed and agreed remedies augmented into the plan for its final approval.

Final approval was never brought to a vote. Today, one year later, copies of the plans languish in the drawers of the city officials. None of the parties involved in the creation of the project are motivated to start the shovels digging. It is certainly true that the current economic downturn has contributed to dampening the momentum. But the lack of motivation of the governing officials of the town has put the project on definite hold. We hope that the economy will improve and the town officials will have some new blood in the near future.

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3 Responses to “Traditional Neighborhood Design in Winfall, NC”

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  1. The single remaining obstacle to project approval is a purely political one, from long-serving officials who basically would like affordable housing but only on larger lots, an economic impossibility. Even the best architectural designs and the most innovative site plans are insufficient to change the minds of the old guard political leadership. Hopefully more progressive folks will gradually assume leadership positions as the older officials eventually retire.

  2. John Harris says:

    This is really nice and to the point. We tried for many years and did all we could for the Town of Winfall with land grants and donations. The “what are you going to do for me” attitude derailed this. We stand ready to go forward as the political characters are replaced as time goes on. Having made several phone calls and stopping by the Mayors office twice, we never were able to get in touch with him and messages were not returned.

  3. Maria Garcia Cunningham says:

    I am the Executive Director of Northeastern Community Development Corporation and I wanted to say that that it was such a privilege working with such a talented and diverse management team. Like others, I was very disappointed that this project did not come to fruition. My hope is that one of these days the powers to be see the beauty of the project and decide to move forward with its implementation. I would like to give credit to the North Carolina Community Development Initiative, Inc., which provided the majority of the planning grant for this project.

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  • GREGORY M. FRECH

    Urban Underbelly is a blog that seeks to share the back stories of successes and struggles in achieving the visions of New Urbanism, especially in Hampton Roads, Virginia

    New Urbanism: is a city planning and architecture movement directed at the creation and restoration of vibrant neighborhood places: centralized, sustainable, walkable and socially diverse.
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