Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Success Story in Northwest Jax

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Success Story in Northwest Jax

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

As far as parties go, this one was low-key: A small band, fruit punch, chicken drumettes, pasta salad, guacamole dip and red velvet cake enjoyed in the humble environs of The First Tee of Jacksonville complex off Golfair Boulevard.

But then again, that's pretty much how Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corp., which recently celebrated its first decade with its funders and other well-wishers, has operated over the years: Humbly and steadfastly.

Since 2001, the development corporation has gone about its business of reviving the area around Moncrief Road, Myrtle Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway.

It's an area that once bustled with black working class families and businesses, but descended into blight over the years after many of those residents grew older and died, and others moved to newer neighborhoods farther north.

It continues to struggle. But the development corporation has been quietly helping it shed its image of pathology to one of progress and possibility.

PROGRESS IS VISIBLE

Right across from the First Tee and Brentwood Golf Course is Golfair Estates, a housing community that the development corporation built. It has built and sold 70 houses. And despite the housing mortgage crisis, only two of its homes have been foreclosed, said Paul Tutwiler, its executive director.

"That's unfortunate," Tutwiler told me. "But it's all across the city, and we're not immune.

"But we probably don't have much of that because we teach our families about financial literacy and budgets, and how to save for a rainy day."

The mortgage crisis, plus a black unemployment rate that is about 15.5 percent nationally, has led them to eye rentals, Tutwiler said.

"So we're diversifying what we do as an agency," he said. "We need to look beyond housing sales, because some people may need to rent longer to rebuild their lives. …

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