Published: Mar 09, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Mar 09, 2013 08:42 PM
CHAPEL HILL - Northside and Pine Knolls residents who need a job can get in on the ground floor this week of a big West Rosemary Street construction project.
Larry Short, managing partner of the Shortbread Lofts residential and commercial development, said the two-day jobs fair is a way to give back and include the community. The idea came up during the town’s special-use permitting process, he said.
“Folks like to talk about ways to be more inclusive, and we never see any follow-through,” Short said. “We may be able to help some people.”
The seven-story student-oriented complex is going up on the edge of Northside, the historically African-American community that faces increasing pressure from developers looking to convert single-family homes to student rentals. Pine Knolls, off Merritt Mill Road south of Cameron Avenue, faces similar pressure.
The Shortbread project’s 85 apartments and first-floor retail have been promoted as a way to relieve some of those pressures. The developer also paid $25,000 to the town’s affordable housing fund. Construction crews are finishing the preliminary site work now, including underground utility lines that also will serve nearby downtown businesses.
So far, they’ve gotten a good response from town and community leaders, Short said.
Hudson Vaughan, associate director of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center in St. Joseph CME Church, said the job fair is a good start. It’s hard to say what it will mean to the community just yet, he said.
“I think most people in the community I have talked to would love to see real jobs come out of this,” he said.
Delores Bailey, executive director of Empowerment Inc., a community organizing and affordable housing nonprofit, said developers have promised to provide jobs before, but it didn’t pan out. Her hope is that this job fair also will attract former residents who have moved to other Triangle towns and encourage them to come back to the community, she said.
George Sparling, vice president and general manager of contractor Moriarty Southeast, said they will need skilled and unskilled workers to help with everything from cleanup and temporary elevator operation to carpentry, concrete and steel assembly. It’s hard to say how many people they will hire, he said.
Bailey said the salary range that’s been discussed is $8 to $12 an hour.
The length of the work will depend on how long each position is needed. Some jobs may be short term, while others may last the extent of the project, he said. It also will be a special opportunity for Northside residents who work out well to get a chance at future projects, Sparling said.
Bailey said applicants should come dressed to impress with a good pair of workboots and a toolbelt, if they have one.
“Be ready to work. If you’re just doing something for a couple of weeks, stay home,” she said.
The jobs fair is one of three Shortbread Lofts initiatives designed to support the Northside community. Another is public art, and local artist Michael Brown will work later this year with younger residents to design and create a metal sculpture for display at the development. Short also is working with Chapel Hill’s Internet Technology department to determine how to put broadband Internet service equipment on the complex’s roof at his expense. Northside residents will be able to take advantage of the Internet access, he said.
Vaughan said the community needs more developers who say they care to help create jobs with fair wages and build affordable housing.
“The things that show a commitment with power and money behind them are the things that show me they care,” he said.