Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

EWC Hopes to Be Economic Catalyst for the Northside

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

EWC Hopes to Be Economic Catalyst for the Northside

Article excerpt

Byline: Earl Daniels, Times-Union business writer

Edward Waters College plans to build a $2 million role model to help revitalize Northwest Jacksonville.

Edward Waters officials are expected to announce plans to build a residential model block of 13 single-family houses near the school on Kings Road, west of downtown.

The plan is the first part of a $60 million Edward Waters College Development and Impact Areas Master Plan. School officials say they will announce the specifics of the master plan in April.

EWC President Jimmy Jenkins hopes the houses will encourage private investors to redevelop the area surrounding the school at 1658 Kings Road.

Construction of the houses will begin in April, with the first to be completed in August and the remainder to be built by the end of the year. The houses, which will be built on Pearce Street, south of the school's center, will be priced from about $80,000 to $90,000. The houses will mostly be two- and three-bedroom houses with two bathrooms.

"Unless we change the environment around the school, we are going to have a hard time recruiting students," said Jenkins. The school, which has an enrollment of about 1,300 students, is in an old neighborhood consisting of vacant and run-down houses.

Since taking over as president in 1997, Jenkins has attempted to increase the school's enrollment and correct administrative problems. In 2000, Jenkins created the EWC Community Development Corp., a non-profit entity, to raise money and create a plan for increasing the size of the campus. The development corporation will oversee the residential component of the master plan and the overall building project.

Jenkins said the houses will be for sale to the public and will be attractive to young couples.

Buyers will likely be able to take advantage of the city's down payment assistance program and other first-time home-buying programs, said Ellis Brown, executive director of EWC's Community Development Corp.

School officials plan to have a naming contest to name the model block with the school's mascot, a tiger, as a part of the name.

He said the affordable houses are the cornerstone of the school's overall redevelopment plan.

"We have talked about doing this for the past two years," Brown said. "Many residents have said, 'I will believe it when I see it.' Presidents as far back as 30 years ago said they were going to do this. It is critical that we do this."

Brown said the school is in the process of finalizing its financing for the master plan, which will be funded with public and private investments.

Jenkins said the school will likely request financial incentives from the city as the school's overall plan evolves. Jenkins did not say when the incentives would be sought.

Kirk Wendland, executive director of the JEDC, said the city and EWC officials have discussed what kind of incentives could be provided for the school's developments, but no deals have been made. …

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