Durham residents ask for the city’s help to renovate historic Black homes into hotels

A decrepit building in a historic Black neighborhood in Durham could take on new life as a boutique hotel, but developers say their business plan hinges on one thing: support from the city.

They’ve asked for a $500,000 economic development incentive to help pay for the $2.1 million renovation, saying it will help revitalize business in a depressed area.

The Scarborough House is located at 1406 Fayetteville St., in the historic Stokesdale neighborhood, on the southern end of Hayti.

Its namesake is John C. Scarborough, who was described in The Durham Sun in 1956 at the “dean of Negro business.”

In 1906, he became the first Black licensed funeral director and embalmer in North Carolina, according to an honor the General Assembly bestowed on him 100 years later.

Scarborough & Hargett Celebration of Life Center remains open today.

Scarborough launched other businesses and civic ventures, and the developers said he was the first African American to run for Durham City Council in 1947.

Vision for boutique hotel in Hayti

He built his home in 1916 from remnants salvaged from abandoned houses.

“The Scarborough House is a distinctive and perplexing statement of architectural and historic preservation,” the developers wrote. “Although Mr. Scarborough built the house in the Neoclassical Revival style, no other house still standing exemplifies such rich and varied elements of the architectural mixtures of the city’s vibrant Victorian era.”

They say it became a staple in what was then a thriving African American neighborhood, home to community meetings, parties, dinners, planning sessions and more.

The home is owned by a descendant of the Scarborough family: Queen Bass-Scarborough. She has teamed up with Greene Solutions, a company registered to Traci Greene, for this project.

Neither woman returned phone calls Friday. Their joint venture is Eagle Landing Partners LLC, which is not yet registered in North Carolina.

They received letters of support from the director of the Hayti Heritage Center, the chair of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, their lenders M&F Bank, former Major Steve Schewel and former state Sen. Howard Lee.

“Please know it is important to the State of North Carolina for you and Durham to succeed in preserving as much of the Hayti community as possible,” Lee wrote.

Their business plan details the vision for a 15,000-square-foot hotel:

  • Eight guest rooms

  • 10 bathrooms

  • commercialkitchen

  • Formal dining area with seating for 25

  • A 5,000-square-foot event space

They hope to reinvigorate Stokesdale and get nearby North Carolina Central University involved in supplying hospitality workers who can learn the trade.

Growing business outside downtown

The money would be given under the Neighborhood Revitalization Grant Incentive Program, which the city established in 2014.

It’s used to support projects that stimulate business and create jobs in areas outside downtown, according to the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. Among its previous grants:

  • Self-Help Credit Union renovated five buildings in the business district around Angier Avenue and Driver Street that now house nonprofits and businesses. $700,000, 7% of the total cost.

  • A blighted building on Driver Street was renovated and now contains apartments and shops, including the Black-owned independent bookstore Rofhiwa Book Cafe. $170,000, 32% of the total cost.

  • A Fayetteville Street building was torn down for a Checkers franchise. $140,000, 10% of the total cost.

City staff have endorsed the project, but the City Council gets the final say.

A public hearing is the last item on Monday night’s City Council agenda. The meeting begins at 7 pm in City Hall.

Scroll to Top