With Johnson C. Smith University belatedly starting classes Monday, more than 150 students whod hoped to move into apartments in the universitys new off-campus Mosaic Village will have to live temporarily in hotel rooms for two to three weeks.
JCSU is hoping a certificate of occupancy is issued soon for the long-awaited 300-bed, suite-style apartment complex a key component of the $26-million mixed-use village that includes parking and retail on West Trade Street near JCSU.
Then Ill have to get my manager and staff in there to get to know the building and get acclimated to all the equipment before we dare move in there, JCSU President Ron Carter said Thursday. Im not going to put a soul in there until everything is right.
So about 154 students will be housed in a Holiday Inn until their apartments are ready. Another 60 students who paid deposits for the village apartments will temporarily sleep in rooms of students who are classified as no-shows, Carter said.
Weve done that before, Carter said. Its no problem.
Classes normally would have begun this past Monday. But the university housed law enforcement and security officers for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte earlier this month, so school officials pushed the fall semester back a week.
The university had hoped to complete Mosaic Village three weeks before the DNC so it could offer the space to delegates.
But after construction started, city inspectors found parts that needed to be done differently such as spraying beams with insulation, said Anayo Ezeigbo, vice president for business operations.
These items were not an issue during the construction review, but they were with the field inspectors, Ezeigbo said. It has delayed our opening.
Reconnecting to development
The idea for the 2-acre Mosaic Village is to draw more development to the area around the historically black university effectively reconnecting the mile-long stretch from uptown to JCSU, a divide that began in the late 1960s with the construction of Interstate 77.
Carters predecessors tried to rescue Beatties Ford Road from decades of decline, but largely couldnt. He arrived on campus in 2008 determined to transform JCSU into an independent urban university and reinsert the school into the life of the city.
On campus, Carter set out to raise money for the $42 million STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) building, and major renovations to the library, residence halls and the George Davis house just beyond the gates.
He also wanted to grow the student body to 1,750 students by the 2013-14 school year.
We think well reach that goal in the spring of 2013, so were ahead of schedule, Carter said.
Off campus, he set out to build partnerships with the city and owners of properties bordering JCSU.
One was with the Smith family, no relation to the schools namesake, that owns property at the Five Points intersection of West Trade, Beatties Ford, Rozzelles Ferry Road and West Fifth Street. The family and JCSU want to created Smith Square with a college-town feel of businesses that include a clothing store and snack shop.
Another partnership is with Griffin Brothers Cos., a family-owned tire and auto repair business that began at 1524 W. Trade St. The Griffins agreed to partner with JCSU and turn its old store into the Arts Factory, the universitys 14,000-square-foot visual and performing arts building that opened last year next to the Mosaic Village site.
The villages apartment complex is meant to draw in students living off campus.
In order for us to provide them a full campus experience we needed a facility that is off-campus but brings 350 students closer to campus, Carter said. All they need to do is walk to campus. It pumps new life into the JCSU community.
Crossing the I-77 divide
In many ways Mosaic Village is an extension of Gateway Village on the other side of I-77 with its shops, condos, hotel, offices and Johnson & Wales University.
Last March, the West Trade/I-77 underpass was lit up by $300,000 worth of 3D lighting sponsored by the Arts & Science Council.
The lights are meant to provide a seamless transition from uptown to Beatties Ford Road, the westsides spine but long dotted with older or closed-up homes and businesses.
Mosaic Village brings vibrant colors and energy to the redevelopment efforts.
Its terrace offers stunning views of Charlottes skyline.
We could have very easily built Mosaic Village behind the (JCSU) gates, Carter said. But everyone knows I have a passion for a strong partnership with the city. We want the city to be hand-and-glove with us. And we want Johnson C. Smith to be hand-and-glove with the city.
We are enjoying our partnership with the Griffin family. It is a very important front entrance that says we are going to do everything we can to revitalize Beatties Ford Road.