Charlotte, N.C., March 16, 2017 - Renaissance West Community Initiative (RWCI), the agency leading the transformation of the former Boulevard Homes public housing site into a community called The Renaissance, has started construction on the Howard R. Levine Child Development Center.
The new facility is expected to be complete in October and will serve 152 children from infancy through five years of age. RWCI was launched in response to a critical need to improve social mobility and break the cycle of poverty for residents living on West Boulevard.
The CDC is a key component of RWCI’s master plan and is supported by research that high-quality early education is associated with positive lifelong outcomes for children. The CDC will help to address potential achievement gaps before the area’s youngest students enter the new CMS Pre-K-8 school at the Renaissance. It will also provide a stable child care environment for parents working to improve their socioeconomic situations, reducing a source of stress for families.
“Our goal is to create opportunity through neighborhood revitalization, and education is critical to that effort,” said William “Mack” McDonald, Jr., CEO of RWCI. “Thanks to the tremendous contributions of our supporters and community partners like the Y, this new facility will provide working parents with high-quality child care while ensuring that our youngest students develop the skills they need.”
In a groundbreaking partnership, the center will be operated by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, which is nationally recognized for its effective literacy and early childhood development programs that address the academic achievement gap. All lead teachers at the CDC will have bachelor’s degrees, and the center will use an evidence-based curriculum that focuses on healthy child development. Nikki Hildebrand, formerly the early and lower school director at Rivermont Collegiate in Bettendorf, Iowa, has been appointed executive director of the CDC. Hildebrand earned her master’s degree in early childhood education from Emory University and has more than 18 years of experience.
The agreement represents a new concept for the state, though YMCAs in 17 other states have started similar programs. YMCA officials said they agreed to take on the task after extensive research of a similar project in Atlanta that serves 3,000 children.
“We spent more than a year benchmarking best-in-class early learning centers across the nation,” said YMCA of Greater Charlotte CEO Todd Tibbits. “The success of our literacy and educational programming is determined by clearly defined objectives and outcome measurements. As a Y, we hold ourselves accountable for our role in helping kids in need transcend disadvantages as we create a pathway for every child to achieve in school, life and career.”
RWCI is in the midst of a $15 million comprehensive capital campaign to fund construction and operating costs for the CDC as well as complementary programs and services for families at The Renaissance and surrounding neighborhoods. The funds raised for the CDC include a $1 million lead gift from Howard Levine and nearly $5 million in New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) and more than $1.5 million in NMTC equity provided by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
“It’s important that we come together as a community to ensure that people across Charlotte
have access to the resources they need to support their families,” said Charles Bowman, Charlotte and North Carolina market president for Bank of America. “At Bank of America, we’re proud to support the efforts of organizations like Renaissance West Community Initiative through nearly half a million dollars in philanthropic giving as well as the financing provided to bring this center to life. Together we can put people on a path to success and build a thriving economy in our city.”
South State Bank is providing $4 million in construction financing for the project, and other contributors to the CDC include the Cato Corporation, the C.D. Spangler Foundation, the Charlotte Housing Authority, the Dickson Foundation, Lynn and Brian Good, Jerry and Rosalind Richardson, SteelFab, the Van Every Foundation and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Foundation, which is the grant-making arm of the Foundation for the Carolinas. Hugh McColl, Jr. serves as honorary chair of the RWCI’s capital campaign.
About The Renaissance
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the CharlotteHousing Authority (CHA) a $20.9 million HOPE VI grant for the revitalization of the former Boulevard Homes, located at West Boulevard and Billy Graham Parkway. The public housing site had been home to 900 people who struggled with poor educational attainment, poverty, and violent crime, which at one time was five times the city average. Redeveloped by Laurel Street Residential, the community now includes 334 units of mixed-income housing and a community center. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will open a new PreK-8 school on the site in 2017.
About Renaissance West Community Initiative:
Renaissance West Community Initiative is a nonprofit organization leading the revitalization of the former Boulevard Homes public housing site into a vibrant village called The 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. RWCI is responsible for developing, coordinating, and evaluating a comprehensive array of services and supports, such as health care, out–of-school-time programs, and workforce development to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Renaissance West Community Initiative was formed by community leaders in the fall of 2012 and is governed by a 12-member Board of Directors. For more information, please visit www.rwci.org