Construction in west Charlotte has begun on a childhood development center on a site previously home to the notorious Boulevard Homes housing projects. Organizers say the development center’s goal is to help break the cycle of poverty for those living along West Boulevard.
Work on the new Howard R. Levine Child Development Center is expected to wrap up in October, according to a statement from the Renaissance West Community Initiative, the nonprofit behind the project. The former public housing site once had a crime rate five times the city average.
The center, intended to improve social mobility for residents in the area, will serve kids from infancy to five years old. Operated by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, the center will help address potential achievement gaps before kids enter the new CMS prekindergarten through 8th grade school nearby. It will also provide child care, which will reduce stress for families, leaders say.
“This new facility will provide working parents with high-quality child care while ensuring that our youngest students develop the skills they need,” said said William “Mack” McDonald, Jr., CEO of RWCI.
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RWCI is in the midst of a $15 million capital campaign to fund construction and operating costs of the center. Among other funds raised so far is a $1 million gift from former Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine. Levine’s father, Leon, as well as Bank of America, South State Bank, the Charlotte Housing Authority and several others have also contributed funds.
The Howard Levine Development Center is considered the lynchpin of a $90 million revitalization plan for the 41-acre former public housing site.
The 900 units of Boulevard Homes have since been bulldozed, and the land at West Boulevard and Billy Graham Parkway will soon be replaced by a mixed-income housing community called The Renaissance. Along with the school and the childhood development center, The Renaissance will have 334 housing units and a community center.