The group revitalizing the former Boulevard Homes has selected its leader and plans to model its K-8 school after the Charles R. Drew Charter School in Atlanta.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. July 29, 2013 – Renaissance West Community Initiative (RWCI), the agency coordinating the education and services continuum at the former Boulevard Homes community, is pleased to announce it has hired an executive director. The group also recently partnered with an Atlanta-based nonprofit and has chosen the Charles R. Drew Charter School as the model for its K-8 program. RWCI will connect community services to support families and build a comprehensive education continuum that includes a high quality child development center and a K-8 school.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) a $20.9 million HOPE VI grant for the revitalization of the former Boulevard Homes. The public housing site had been home to 900 people and struggled with poor educational attainment, poverty, and violent crime, which at one time was five times the city average.
In 2012, CHA created an advisory committee of local leaders and subject experts to craft a vision of success for the education continuum. Based upon the recommendation of the advisory committee the CHA board of directors approved the creation of Renaissance West Community Initiative as an independent non-profit organization in summer 2012 and began recruitment of its inaugural board of directors. The initiative appointed Laura Clark in April 2013 to coordinate efforts to augment the mixed-income housing with supportive services and a comprehensive education continuum.
Being built on 41 acres at West Boulevard and Billy Graham Parkway, The Renaissance is a $75 million community that will include 224 units of mixed-income housing, 110 independent living senior units, youth and adult development programs, a high quality child development center, a school, connection to the greenway, health and wellness services, and a community center.
Among the most innovative strategies incorporated into the Renaissance plan is the creation of a high quality, “cradle-to-career” educational continuum that includes both an early child education center and a K-8 school at the entrance of the community.
Clark, who brings more than 10 years experience in research and community planning to the position, says her initial focus will be on getting the school and early education center up and running.
“In the last few years, Charlotte clearly has turned a lot of civic and philanthropic attention to education, realizing it needs an educated workforce,” Clark noted. “With Renaissance West Community Initiative, we have the opportunity to further these efforts by supporting a community in a way that fosters economic development by leveraging the amazing resources and programs we have in Charlotte.”
She plans to bring a holistic approach to community revitalization, focusing on multiple critical factors to ensure children and families have the resources they need to be successful in one of the city’s most economically challenged areas. This represents a more comprehensive approach to community development than ones traditionally used in the past.
Ultimately, the goal for The Renaissance community is to bring added economic development to the West Boulevard corridor. A community engagement committee is in the process of being formed to ensure neighborhood input is incorporated in the planning.
“The Housing Authority is very excited to see its years of planning and preparation of the cradle to career continuum come to fruition,” said A. Fulton Meachem, Jr., chief executive officer of the Charlotte Housing Authority. “This holistic approach to community revitalization and partnerships provide an opportunity to eradicate inter-generational poverty that plagues many of our residents.”
Clark most recently served as director of The Larry King Center at the Council for Children’s Rights, a leading resource on children’s issues. Prior to joining the council in 2008, she served four years as the director of evaluation and community impact for United Way of Central Carolinas. Clark has been engaged with a variety of civic committees and nonprofit boards, including the YMCA Community Development Board.
“We have nothing but confidence in Laura [Clark]’s expertise to work with the community to make a real impact on the West Boulevard corridor. It takes courage and zeal, both of which she has in spades,” remarked Todd Mansfield, chief executive officer of Crescent Communities and co-chair of the board for Renaissance West Community Initiative.
MODEL CHOSEN FOR THE SCHOOL
In March, Renaissance West Community Initiative partnered with Purpose Built Communities, an Atlanta-based nonprofit consulting firm that works with local leaders to transform struggling neighborhoods into vibrant sustainable communities where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
Renaissance West Community Initiative plans to model its school after the Charles R. Drew Charter School, part of the East Lake community in Atlanta, which was redeveloped by the East Lake Foundation. Purpose Built Communities grew out of that initiative to replicate the holistic model in other cities.
Similar to Boulevard Homes, the Villages of East Lake was once enmeshed in poverty and violent crime. In 1995, community leaders set out to rebuild and renew the neighborhood. Affordable and market-rate housing was built, as was the Drew Charter School, which became a cornerstone for the redevelopment.
Before Drew Charter School was established, only five percent of 5th graders in the neighborhood school were able to meet state math standards. Today, Drew Charter School students are outpacing their peers across the state. In mathematics, for example, 95 percent of students in grades 3 through 8 meet or exceed state standards, while 99 percent meet or exceed the standards for reading.
The school’s resounding success in working with low-income students earned it recent praise from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who lauded Drew Charter School’s achievements in April during a speech about resilience and rebuilding for low-income communities.
In Charlotte, the school will start taking applications in 2014 and open in temporary facilities in 2015 serving students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. The school is slated to serve roughly 250 students by the 2016-2017 school year. School construction is scheduled to begin in 2017. Ultimately, enrollment is targeted to reach 900 students.
Clark and the RWCI board of directors have begun searching for a school principal. The person chosen to run the K-8 school will take part in a year-long fellowship program through a partnership with Purpose Built Communities and the Charles R. Drew Charter School. This unique opportunity will ensure the school principal is ready to effectively implement the model in Charlotte.
The child development center, which will serve 200 children at capacity.
Planning is also underway with various partners such as the Stratford Richardson YMCA and Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation department to develop cooperative programs at The Renaissance as well as Central Piedmont Community College for programs for adult residents.
“The YMCA is extremely excited to be a part of the continued investment in the West Boulevard corridor. The RWCI is exactly the type of commitment to our west side that the YMCA believed in when developing the Stratford Richardson full service family YMCA in 2008,“ said Glenn Thomas, director of community engagement for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. “There is no greater impact than partnering with an organization such as RWCI to help our neighbors believe in their community again.”
CHA has pledged $200,000 annually for the first two years for operations for Renaissance West Community Initiative. Fundraising is underway to support the education continuum, including the school. Realization of this ambitious plan will be dependent upon private donations for operations to provide high-quality education.
Laurel Street Residential, the residential developer for the community, started construction in September 2012 on the first phase, a 110-unit building for fixed-income seniors and the disabled called The Retreat at Renaissance. Construction is expected to be finished in September.
Construction on phase two, comprised of 74 mixed-income units, began in March and leasing is expected to start in late 2013. These apartments are designated for working families of various income levels and applicants will undergo thorough criminal and credit background checks.
The overall project will also have a large emphasis on sustainability. The developer is pursuing LEED® Neighborhood Development certification for the Renaissance master plan. In addition, the team was awarded an Affordable Green Neighborhoods Grant through the U.S. Green Building Council.
About Renaissance West Community Initiative:
Renaissance West Community Initiative is a non-profit organization coordinating the education and services continuum of the former Boulevard Homes public housing site into a vibrant, village called Renaissance. The initiative uses a holistic community redevelopment approach, focusing on multiple critical factors, including mixed-income housing, educational opportunities, youth and adult development programs, health and wellness services and commercial investment.
Led by executive director Laura Clark, Renaissance West Community Initiative was formed by community leaders in fall 2012 and is governed by a nine-member board. For more information, please visit: www.rwci.org
About The Renaissance:
The Renaissance is the redevelopment of the former Boulevard Homes public housing site into a vibrant, educational village led by the Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA). It is being built on 41 acres at West Boulevard and Billy Graham Parkway and is funded by a $20.9 million HOPE VI grant by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, awarded in 2010 to CHA. The city of Charlotte has committed $12 million in voter-approved funds, including $5 million of Housing Trust Funds (HTF) and $7 million from Neighborhood Improvement bonds to pay for infrastructure. Laurel Street Residential is leading the housing development.
Plans call for 224 units of mixed-income housing, 110 independent living senior units, youth and adult development programs, a five-star early childhood development center, a K-8 school, connection to the greenway and links to Southview Recreation Center, health and wellness services, and a state-of-the-art community space featuring trails and fields.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Julianne McCollum, Renaissance West Community Initiative Media Contact: 704.271.9556, firstname.lastname@example.org