Ujima CDC close to building Emmanuel Retirement Village

Ujima CDC close to building Emmanuel Retirement Village
April 14
00:00 2016
Photo by Todd Luck
Ujima CDC’s Hobart Jones, Sandy Sadler and Larry Weston with the plan for Emanuel Retirement Village



For over a decade, Ujima CDC has dreamed about building a retirement community on Barbara Jane Avenue and now expects to break ground this year.

The City Council finance committee on Monday, April 11, voted unanimously to send a resolution to the full council to provide $2.5 million in grants and loans for Ujima’s first project, Emmanuel Retirement Village. The $5.5 million project will get the rest of its capital from a private lender. The planned independent living retirement community, which will be off Old Greensboro Road, will have 28 single bedroom units in a two-story apartment building, duplexes with 22 two-bed-room units, and a community center. The CDC hopes to start construction this year and open the complex in early 2018.

Ujima CDC came about when Emanuel Baptist Pastor John Mendez had the idea of putting a retirement community on property the church owned on Barbara Jane Avenue.

“We saw older people leaving the community to find a suitable place to live out the rest of their years,” said Ujima Vice-President Hobart Jones.

Church members began putting together a community development corporation (CDC) in 2005. Ujima CDC, named after a Kwanzaa principal that means “collective work and responsibility,” became a 501(c)(3) in 2006. A CDC, which is a non-profit that’s devoted to development in a particular community, has advantages in getting things like grants for its projects. Oftentimes, a CDC is used when private developers aren’t interested.

Though senior living complexes are big business in other parts of town, Ujima members said developers are hesitant to come to East Winston for that kind of project.

“Crossing 52, they just don’t spend money over here,” said Jones, referring to US-52, which divides the historically black part of town in East Winston from the rest of the city.

The particular property has several other complicating factors, including an incline that will require substantial grading work before construction begins. It’s  also in a food desert, meaning there are no grocery stores within one mile, so it doesn’t qualify for  tax credits from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency that depends on the nearby availability of commercial services. Tax credits are used by developers to significantly subsidize a project.

With no private developers biting, the CDC is acting as its own developer. This became particularly challenging with changes in the economy.

“We had to keep the faith through the housing slump and through the downturn in the economy, which people call the recession and in our community felt like a depression,” said Larry Weston, the CDC’s consultant.

Though Emanuel Baptist Church provided the land for Ujima to develop, the CDC is separate from the church and must raise its own money, which it’s done through a variety of fundraisers. Pre-development funds from the City’s block grant program allowed the CDC to pay for design and engineering costs early on.

The CDC has been through many potential contractors and lenders on the project. With no tax credit or state or federal funds, the CDC needed help from the city to secure a private lender.

“The first thing the private lender asks: ‘Is the City in on this?’”said Jones.

Their current potential lender’s $3 million is contingent on the City’s commitment of $2.5 million, just as the City’s $2.5 mil-lion investment was contingent on the promise of private financing. The City’s proposed financing is comprised of a $500,000 grant, a $1 million no-interest forgivable loan and a $1 million loan at 2 percent interest. The City Council will vote on it in its Monday, April 18 meeting.

The City had numerous questions and concerns about Ujima as a first time developer, which the CDC has answered. During Tuesday’s committee meeting, the CDC addressed everything from having enough capital to cover unexpected construction costs to the market viability of the project. Weston told City Council members that interest from potential tenants was “rabid.” Ujima has received 29 letters from interested tenants and its members who attend Emanuel Baptist are regularly asked about the project by congregants.

The retirement community will be for those aged 62 and over. A one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit including utilities, is $899, and a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit, including utilities and a garage, is $950. Weston said that the CDC felt these were fair prices for what tenants will be getting, especially considering the market rate will have increased by 2018 when Emmanuel Retirement Village is scheduled to open. Ujima also has an agreement with the City that there will be some subsidized units.

Members of the CDC bring a variety of skills in finance, non-profits and real estate to the table and have learned a lot through the long process. Ujima President Sandy Sadler said he was confident the CDC is up to the challenge of finally seeing its dream to fruition.

“We feel from all the work we’ve done, we’re a competent and dedicated development team,” said Sadler.

Ujima’s office is in The Enterprise Center, which is owned by S.G. Atkins CDC, whose guidance has been invaluable to Ujima, said Sadler.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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