'The Retreat' - Charlotte's new apartment community designed to - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

'The Retreat' - Charlotte's new apartment community designed to be different

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The vision for The Retreat at Renaissance is 41 acres of community. 110 apartments for seniors and disabled residents. 224 units for mixed income families. A charter school, an early childhood development center, and community Center.

"This is a very unique operation" says Fulton Meachem, of the Charlotte Housing Authority. "It's not considered public housing. This is a complete transition from what anything public housing used to be."

Friday morning, city officials and Congressional Representatives will celebrate the grand opening of the first phase - the building for seniors and disabled residents.

The Retreat is on the site where Boulevard Homes used to be on West Boulevard. That public housing complex was plagued with crime, and badly in need of maintenance.

City officials say in 2011 they received a $20M grant from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development to demolish Boulevard Homes.

They built The Retreat at Renaissance.

Meachem says "I think they should hear The Retreat. It's a place away. Place where you can go."

He says "it's nothing that people when they see it - they'll see that might be a level of subsidy going to that unit. These are market rate looking units with market rate amenities."

The city says The Retreat is a mixed income community - with rents ranging from $385 to $1016 - to help tackle the affordable housing crisis.

"You may have people in those units that actually need some level of subsidy. And you may have some that pay market rate rent" says Meachem. "More importantly than bricks and sticks - find a way to work with the youth and adults and bridge that gap between dependency and independency."

The Housing Authority says The Retreat will focus on ending "generational poverty." Families will have case management to address individual needs.

"So holistically we're looking at it from the standpoint from children to adults to seniors by really creating a better quality of life for them and better access for them to get services in which they need to keep them successful" says Meachem.

Housing officials say they believe the educational component is key.

"If we can get our youth at a very early age really interested in education and performing at a high level, they have a higher probability of not being in poverty" Meachem says. "So we felt like if we take approach and really work with our residents... we're going to put a dent in generational poverty."

Laura Clark of the Renaissance West Community Initiative says "the educational continuum is critical for holistic community redevelopment."

She says the child development center will open in late 2015.

"It's full day child care but a higher quality child development center goes beyond that. This isn't just daycare" she says. "This is providing an early educational environment that is teaching social and emotional development, pre-literacy skills, addressing any health behavioral needs that young children might have, developmental delays, so when they hit kindergarten they're ready to go."

The charter school is scheduled to open in 2015 with 225 students in K-through-3. Each year a new grade will be added. Ultimately, the school will have 650 students in K-through-8.

"We know that in order to really support children and families, we have to address their educational needs if we want to break educational poverty" Clark says.  

The Charlotte Housing Authority is hoping to duplicate housing experience at The Retreat.

Meachem says "I think there's no question that's the direction we're going - is that we have to make sure that when we're building developments - we also have to look at where the schools are, what are the other amenities that are around that really can address the families as a holistic approach and not just simply the buildings they're in."

"My hope is we would take the early learnings from our initiative in the first few years as soon as possible and start to think about how we translate those into other parts of our community" says Clark.

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