Historic Black school site gets new life as affordable homes

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Habitat for Humanity of the Charlotte Region will build 40 affordable homes on the site of the former Plato Price School, which educated Black children for a decades during school segregation. Ally Charitable Foundation and the City of Charlotte will donate $1 million each to the project.

Provided by Ally Charitable Foundation

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The former site of a historic Black school in west Charlotte will have new life as the location of 40 homes developed by Habitat for Humanity of the Charlotte Region.

The Meadows at Plato Price will be a 9-acre development on Morris Field Drive in west Charlotte, not far from Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The name pays homage to the Plato Price School, which educated Black children in Charlotte for decades during school segregation.

The land, in a historically Black neighborhood between Wilkinson Boulevard and Billy Graham Parkway, was donated by the city of Charlotte for redevelopment. Laura Belcher, president and CEO of Habitat Charlotte Region, said the property’s legacy as an “African-American school that was built by and for that community” was top of mind.

“We really want to be able to honor that,” she said. “We believe that providing affordable homeownership on this land is doing that. It’s leaning into the history of that land.”

Homes built in The Meadows at Plato Price will be sold to eligible buyers through Habitat for Humanity, where future owners complete financial education courses and complete volunteer hours, sometimes by working on their own homes.

Affordable housing in Charlotte

Using public land for affordable housing is a growing strategy for Charlotte leaders. Just last week City Council voted to use six city-owned properties for affordable rental or for-sale developments, and further explore viability of three more sites.

Rising land costs, particularly in areas with favorable access to jobs, transportation and other amenities, can be a challenge when creating housing that’s affordable for low- and moderate-income families. The planned Plato Price development will also have walking paths and dedicated nature areas.

In addition to the city’s land donation, Charlotte will also donate $1 million toward the project, as will the Ally Charitable Foundation.

Ali Summerville, who is board chair for both the Ally foundation and Habitat, said she was glad to see the former school site redeveloped with community benefit in mind.

“It would be doing a real disservice if we didn’t pay homage to the people that came before and have been in this neighborhood for all these years,” she said. “It’s important we continue to raise those people up and the great things they have done.”

The development comes as home prices continue to rise in Charlotte and across the United States, pricing out many interested buyers. Homes in the new Plato Price development will be affordable for households earning between 30% and 80% of the area median income, or up to $26,200 to $63,200 for a family of four.

Developments like this one, Belcher said, aim to remove barriers to owning a home for families, especially people of color who historically have been shut out of opportunities to build wealth.

Plato Price history

The Plato Price School taught Black students grades 1-12 when schools were segregated. Former students include U.S. Rep. Mel Watt and Phillip O. Berry, a former state representative and first Black person elected to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.

Among the school’s founders was Charles H. Parker, who was born into slavery and later worked to educate Black children and helped Black families acquire land to build homes. His name now graces what was Barringer Academic Center. The CMS board voted in April to remove the school’s association with vocal white supremacist Osmond L. Barringer.

The Plato Price School closed in the mid-1960s as part of the district’s integration plans and the building was later torn down. The property has been owned by the city since the 1980s, until council in 2018 voted to transfer it to Habitat.

The $7.8 million project is scheduled to break ground in September and be finished in late 2024.

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Lauren Lindstrom is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering affordable housing. She previously covered health for The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, where she wrote about the state’s opioid crisis and childhood lead poisoning. Lauren is a Wisconsin native, a Northwestern University graduate and a 2019 Report for America corps member.
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