KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — The Kinston Housing Authority is making sure emergency vehicles have better access to one area in town. In order to make this happen, parts of the Simon Bright Apartments will have to be torn down.

Narrow driveways in and around the apartment complex allow one vehicle to pass at a time. That’s why the Kinston Housing Authority is working to not only improve this for residents but to make sure first responders will be able to answer emergency calls hopefully without issues.

“What we found in real time was that some of the locations were very difficult as far as being
able to access whenever we had specific types of fires,” Kinston Fire Chief Damien Locklear said.

Locklear says real-time training back in November allowed first responders to pre-plan how they can respond to emergencies at Simon Bright Apartments.

“We still found it difficult if it was a full-blown fire response to be able to get the apparatus in there properly, so in reality, if they were still being occupied and you had that type of response, it would have been that much more difficult,” Locklear said.

Interim Kinston Police Chief Keith Goyette added how having more room to get emergency vehicles inside the apartment’s parking lot will help law enforcement officials.

“It assists us greatly as law enforcement so when we are dispatched to a call, we can go right to that location. we don’t have to park three or four or five blocks away,” Goyette said. “It provides a much safer environment for the citizens that live inside Simon Bright.”

Officials with the Kinston Housing Authority say at the time of its approval two years ago, there were 77 families living in the homes, and they were able to move them out with all expenses paid by the KHA.

The demolition project is set to be completed on April 23. The housing authority will follow up with a site improvement contract sometime this year.

Rhonda Abbott, executive director of KHA, provided WNCT with some common questions about the project with her answers.

1.) Why are the buildings being torn down?

KHA is demolishing 80 of the 224 units (10 buildings) at Simon Bright Apartments. Currently, at Simon Bright we have driveways that only allow for one vehicle to pass at a time, and there are approximately 50 parking spaces for 224 apartments, Often times, vehicles block the narrow drives and other vehicles, including emergency vehicles cannot get through. Demolition of these buildings will ease traffic congestion, provide adequate parking spaces for the remaining residents, and improve access for emergency service vehicles. After demolition, we will have 144 apartment units remaining.

2.) What will be done with the space after the buildings are torn down?

We will add parking lots and two-way driveways. Residents will have parking spaces closer to their apartment entrances. Two-way driveways will allow better access for emergency vehicles. We are also adding two playground areas, one on each side of Bright Street.

3.) Are, or were, there people displaced because of this demolition? 

When we received approval from HUD for the demolition in July 2021, we had 77 of the 80 units proposed for demolition occupied. We worked with all 77 families and they were relocated to other housing within about six months. KHA paid all moving expenses for relocation including security deposits, utility deposits, and moving costs. We received 80 additional housing vouchers from HUD to replace the public housing units.

4.) What is the timeline for demolition and any future builds?

The expected completion date for the demolition of the ten buildings is April 23, 2023. We will follow up with a contract for Site Improvements which will include two-way drives, parking lots, and playgrounds. We plan to begin the Site Improvements contract in 2023.