The Park Church breaks ground on affordable housing for seniors


More than four years after The Park Church first committed to building affordable housing for seniors, church and city leaders gathered Saturday under a gray and drizzly sky to hold an official groundbreaking.

When completed in 2023, the development at 1519 Beatties Ford Road will include 80 apartments ranging from 660 square feet to 900 square feet. Monthly rents for the one- and two-bedroom units will range $400 to $1,200.

The project is a collaboration between The Park Community Development Corporation (CDC); developer Laurel Street Partners; the City of Charlotte; Bank of America; and LISC Charlotte, the local arm of a national nonprofit that provides financing and support for community development.

Ralphine Caldwell, director of LISC Charlotte, said $4.3 million in financing for the project will come from the Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund, a $50 million fund administered by LISC. The fund, created to build and preserve affordable housing in Charlotte, is managed by Foundation for the Carolinas and includes money committed by the foundation and several large banks.

“To date, we have committed $29 million under this fund,” Caldwell said, “investing in 1,300 units of affordable housing throughout this city.”

She said the fund is on tract to support a combined 2,000 affordable units, surpassing its goal of 1,500 units.

Caldwell said demand for senior housing is growing. By 2030, she said, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older, and “our nation will face a severe shortage in appropriate housing to meet their needs.”

“As people age, they need housing that is structurally and mechanically safe — quality, affordable housing just like this project,” she said.

A name steeped in church history

The Park Church development will be named Gilfield Park, in honor of the church’s history.

In 1913, church officials said, 17 people, mainly women, started a prayer group that would become Gilfield Baptist Church, known today as The Park Church.

Bishop Claude Alexander, who leads The Park Church, said the name is meant to tie the name of the new development “with the name of our start.”

“And while that name later became Mt. Olive and University Park and now The Park,” he said, “the spirit of Gilfield yet remains. Now we concretize that in perpetuity with the name Gilfield Park.”

The development will serve residents age 55 and older with incomes ranging from 30% to 80% of the area’s median income (AMI).

Amenities will include:

  • elevator access
  • garden plots,
  • a multi-purpose room,
  • a fitness center and
  • a covered patio
The future site of Gilfield Park. (Photo: Sarafina Wright)

Part of a master plan

James Jackson, board chair of The Park CDC, said the $17 million development is Phase 1 of the church’s master plan to develop 51 acres it owns on Beatties Ford Road. That plan, he said, includes “building out more housing, some affordable, some market rate.”

The Park purchased the westside property 24 years ago with a vision to honor the church’s elders and “pace-setting generation” by providing affordable housing for them, Alexander said

Over the years, that vision stalled because of “how lines were drawn,” he said, adding, “Our being here today gives witness that God is able to redraw lines, and God is able to bring the necessary people and the necessary skills to actualize his purpose.”

Indeed, Saturday’s groundbreaking was years in the making.

In 2017, The Park CDC adopted a strategy that would focus on affordable housing, workforce development and healthy living. Jackson, a retired banker with a decades-long career with Bank of America, was tapped to lead the CDC. Laurel Street, a mixed-income developer, was chosen to partner on affordable housing.

Dionne Nelson, president and CEO of Laurel Street, called the Gilfield Park project a “journey,” noting unforeseen challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the rising cost of materials and labor.

“Many deals that were slated to move forward on the affordable housing front two years ago are struggling to move forward today,” she said.

Nelson said that while some developers have charged higher rents to cover the escalating costs of construction, that option is not available at Gilfield Park

“We’re having to deal with those same challenges,” she said. “But also, staying true to what we came here to do has made this development more complex, but also more impactful.”


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