LISC collaborates with local developer to revitalize a commercial strip in Charlotte's Historic West End, with support from Knight Foundation

High-impact financing offers boost to minority-led businesses, fuels long-term economic opportunity
Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 10:46 AM HST

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- A minority-led commercial redevelopment effort in Charlotte's Historic West End has attracted Black- and Latino-led businesses to the neighborhood, supporting entrepreneurship and jobs while expanding the products and services available to residents.

The project, at 1800 Rozzelles Ferry Road, adjacent to Five Points Public Plaza, is supported by a collaboration between The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation's Charlotte team (LISC Charlotte), both of which have prioritized investment in the Historic West End as a key strategy to promote economic opportunity and racial equity in Charlotte.

Knight provided $450,000 to LISC to help fuel the development plan. LISC used that capital to offer low-cost financing and technical assistance to Sankofa Development, the local minority developer that spearheaded the project.

"The partnership between LISC and Sankofa is a prime example of a private organization supporting a vital community project," said Charles Thomas, director of Knight's Charlotte program. "The Five Points commercial development project will put community first in the West End, helping locally owned businesses and the clientele they serve, including students at the nearby Johnson C. Smith University. We're thrilled to be able to support LISC with this project — and future projects — that positively contribute to the Historic West End."

Sankofa is owned by Dianna Ward, a long-time Charlotte entrepreneur, and the development company is dedicated to implementing commercial projects that are directly aligned with the needs and interests of residents. In the case of this new effort, the new commercial space is now home to Jet's Pizza, Rita's Ice Cream, Premier Pharmacy and a spa—all minority owned and led.

"We're thrilled to be empowering people to re-envision the future of their community. Without support from the Knight Foundation and LISC Charlotte, this would not have been possible," said Ward.

"Most people thought that it would be very difficult to revitalize the Historic West End neighborhood but we're proving that, by bringing together community partners like LISC, the City of Charlotte and Knight, we can get this important work done faster and smarter," she continued. "This project is a major win for business owners of color in Charlotte and can serve as a blueprint for development projects in neighborhoods of color around the country."

Charlotte's Historic West End is home to many of the city's historic African-American neighborhoods. In recent years, it has been experiencing an uptick in commercial, residential and public development, including the opening of the Gold Line streetcar in August. Organizations like LISC and Knight Foundation aim to ensure that the district's residents are part of that growth, not displaced by it.

"We are continuing our comprehensive community development work in the Historic West End, preserving its identity and investing in the corridor's revitalization efforts through strategic public and private partnerships," said LISC Charlotte Executive Director Ralphine Caldwell.

"When Sankofa Development asked for our support, we immediately stepped in with multi-sourced funding to make their vision a reality. The corridor is a rich environment for much-needed investments; we are working closely with West End community members to identify and support minority developers and investment areas with the biggest impacts."

The four new businesses that are part of the Sankofa project are open, serving ice cream and Detroit style pizza, as well as offering services to residents and visitors. To patronize these businesses and follow the progress of the development, visit 1800 Rozzelles Ferry Road, Charlotte, NC 28208.

"Our mission at Knight is to help build more engaged, inclusive and informed communities," noted Thomas. "The only way to do that is to make sure people drive change."

About the John S. and James L. Knight
We are social investors who support democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once had newspapers. Learn more at kf .org and follow @ knightfdn on social media.

About Sankofa
Sankofa Partners LLC is an entity formed in 2019 for the purposes of acquiring and renovating the commercial properties located at 1800 Rozzelles Ferry Road in the West End area of Charlotte. This is the first commercial project for Sankofa Partners. Dianna Ward is an African-American businesswoman leading a project team experienced in commercial land acquisition and leasing commercial space. Sankofa LLC's vision is to provide needed service, food options, and jobs as an integral part of community revitalization in the West End area.

About LISC
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is a 40-year Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) committed to comprehensive community development, including investing capital and resources into small businesses, economic development, affordable housing, health & safety, sports & recreation, and education, as well as building the capacity of non-profit partners. LISC Charlotte's economic development strategy focuses on providing resources to minority developers for commercial projects, creating jobs, and supporting small business activity in our target neighborhood, Historic West End. Since opening its office in March 2019, LISC Charlotte has invested over $7.5 million in Charlotte in partnership with the city, philanthropic leaders, corporations and community organizations. For more, visit www.lisc.org/charlotte .

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SOURCE Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)

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