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Almost 15 years ago, Charlotte’s civic leaders and neighborhood activists created the Renaissance West Community Initiative with the vision of revitalizing a west Charlotte neighborhood through an education village approach. This initiative is part of a national movement — and represents one of Charlotte's most ambitious efforts to break the cycle of poverty.

Here’s how Charlotte’s Renaissance West project has evolved

Boulevard Homes public housing in 2000.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library archives
Boulevard Homes public housing in 2000.

A timeline of the Renaissance West project:


  • Boulevard Homes public housing opens on West Boulevard, just east of Charlotte’s airport.


  • Charlotte Housing Authority (now Inlivian) identifies Boulevard Homes as its most dilapidated and troubled property.


  • Citing conditions that are beyond repair and dragging down the neighborhood, the Housing Authority applies for a grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to tear down Boulevard Homes and replace it with mixed income housing and a cradle-to-career support system.
  • HUD approves demolition of Boulevard Homes. Residents are given the option to move to other public housing or to receive Section 8 vouchers for subsidized rentals elsewhere.
  • The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board votes to build a new K-8 school on West Boulevard to be part of the Boulevard Homes replacement project.


  • HUD awards the Housing Authority a $20.9 million Hope VI grant for a project that includes mixed-income housing and an education village.


  • Construction begins on Renaissance West housing for senior citizens.
  • The Housing Authority creates an advisory board to discuss the education aspects of the plan.


Renaissance West Community Initiative office.
Ann Doss Helms
Renaissance West Community Initiative office.

  • Renaissance West Community Initiative is incorporated and hires Laura Yates Clark as CEO.
  • Renaissance West Community Initiative becomes part of the Atlanta-based Purpose Built Communities network.
  • Residents begin moving into senior housing.
  • Construction begins on mixed-income housing for families.
  • Voters approve a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bond package that includes $30 million for a school at Renaissance West.


  • Residents begin moving into mixed-income housing.


  • Mixed-income housing is completed.
  • William “Mack” McDonald is hired as Renaissance West Community Initiative’s second CEO.


Renaissance West STEAM Academy
Ann Doss Helms
Renaissance West STEAM Academy

  •  Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools opens Renaissance West STEAM Academy, a preK-8 school.
  • United Way of Greater Charlotte, now headed by Laura Yates Clark, launches a United Neighborhoods program that will provide long-term funding and support to Renaissance West and other neighborhood-based revitalization projects.


  • Howard Levine Child Development Center opens at Renaissance West.
  • Renaissance West STEAM Academy gets its first school performance grade. Based on student test scores it’s rated F and put on the state’s low-performing list.


  • Renaissance West STEAM Academy is again rated F and low performing.


  • COVID-19 pandemic forces schools into remote learning; North Carolina suspends testing and school performance grades.
  • Howard Levine Child Development Center closes temporarily.


  • Child Development Center reopens under new management.
  • In-person classes and state testing resume but the state issues no performance grades.


  • North Carolina resumes performance grades. Renaissance West gets an F based on low proficiency but is removed from the low-performing list because of significant growth.


  • CMS unveils plans to turn Renaissance West STEAM Academy into a middle school and relocate the preK-5 students at an unspecified date.
Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.