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Navigating United Neighborhoods: Renaissance West

Through the United Neighborhoods initiative, United Way serves more than 50 neighborhoods across greater Charlotte. This blog series dives deeper into the history of each United Neighborhoods community and highlights the residents and community quarterbacks that fuel the vision for the future. 

Renaissance West was established in 2013, following the Purpose Built Community model which uses a holistic, place-based approach to improve health outcomes and increase racial equity and economic mobility. 

At Renaissance West, the goal is for residents to achieve economic mobility, so their work focuses on mixed-income housing, cradle-to-career education, health and wellness and access to opportunity.

Before Renaissance West came to be, there was Boulevard Homes–a public housing development known for its urban decay and violent crime. Renaissance West was the project to redevelop the former Boulevard Homes into a new mixed-income community, led by Laurel Street Residential. 

The first phase of homes was completed in 2013 and called The Retreat at Renaissance, a building that provides 110 housing units to fixed-income seniors and disabled residents. The second phase of homes was completed in 2014 and called The Residences at Renaissance, a building with 74 mixed-income family units. The third and final phase of housing construction was completed in 2016 and added 150 additional mixed-income apartments and townhomes to The Residences at Renaissance. Along with 334 housing opportunities, a community center was built, known as Dr. John T. Crawford Renaissance Center, complete with amenities such as a playground, pool, cafe, fitness center, laundry facility and more.

This new, vibrant community would feature an “education village” as well to round-out the holistic approach of providing housing, education and recreation to residents.

The education village consists of the Howard Levine Child Development Center (HLCDC) and Renaissance West STEAM Academy. The HLCDC is an early childhood learning center to prepare children – from infancy to pre-K – for schooling, and currently serves over 100 children with a goal to accommodate 150 children. 

Drawing inspiration from successful educational models like the Charles R. Drew Charter School in Atlanta, Renaissance West partnered with the Charlotte Mecklenburg school system to establish the Renaissance West STEAM Academy, a Pre-K through eighth grade school.

The Dr. John T. Crawford Renaissance Center provides a space for residents to access all amenities such as the RenWest Training Center, which residents can utilize for adult learning opportunities, GED classes, skill development certifications and digital and financial literacy classes. 

By providing children with the foundational skills necessary for academic success and adults with the resources to improve their own education and skills, Renaissance West provides opportunities to increase future earning potential and end the poverty cycle.

Renaissance West was one of the first two partner communities in United Way of Greater Charlotte’s United Neighborhoods initiative, launched in 2017. Through United Neighborhoods, United Way works alongside the community quarterback to convene and provide funding to nonprofits whose services address the needs identified by residents.

As a Community Quarterback with United Neighborhoods, Renaissance West is able to work collaboratively with nonprofit partners to bring in the best programs and services for its residents in the community, whether they relate to health and wellness, food security, academic support or job training.

Like many other communities in Charlotte, Renaissance West does face challenges. When addressing the occasional incidents residents face in the community, Renaissance West emphasizes and acknowledges the importance of providing assistance while continuing to promote resilience and self-sufficiency. 

Renaissance West knows the complexity of its community and its work as a place-based initiative, striving to address a variety of resident-identified needs within the community in order to create lasting change for generations to come. 

“We are steadfast and we’re tracking to fulfill the mission and vision that our founders in the community originally expected from us; we’re here fighting for our neighbors, we’re here collaborating with our partners to do this work,” Chief Executive Officer Mack McDonald said.

“As we have success here, I think that definitely contributes to the success of greater Charlotte.”

Meet Mack McDonald and learn more about Renaissance West’s role as a community quarterback.

Learn more about the work United Way is doing through United Neighborhoods today.