PEMBROKE — It’s been a long time coming, but the process of developing a housing complex and community center for Lumbee elders in the southern part of Robeson County got traction on Tuesday.
About 40 elders and tribal staff gathered at the tribal Housing Complex on N.C. 711 as Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. and Chuck and Fannie White, owners of the 16 acres where the complex will be built, signed the documents turning the land over to the tribe. The property is located on N.C. 130, about a mile outside of Rowland.
According to tribal officials, the initial discussion of an elder’s housing complex for District 1, which includes Gaddy, Rowland, Orrum, Sterlings, Whitehouse and Thompson, began in 2008. Although there has been money in the tribal budget to fund the project for five years, it wasn’t until recently that property in the desired location and for the right price could be obtained.
According to Anthony Holden, construction manager for the project, the tribe’s total investment in the project — including cost of property — will be about $1.6 million. The project, which will include construction of nine to 10 single-family units and a community building, is expected to take 18 months from site planning to completion. A groundbreaking has not been scheduled.
“I think this is going to be great for the elderly and for District 1,” Holden said. “We looked at four or five other sites before we found this one. The best thing about this is that we can now provide affordable housing in District 1.”
Godwin said the project is the outcome of the administration, Tribal Council, and tribal members working together.
“This is what partnership looks like,” Godwin said. “… Everything we do has to be for the people.”
Godwin said that the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, a federal agency that funds tribal operations and projects, has approved construction of the elder’s complex and community building “all the way down the line.”
Lakishia Spaulding Sweat, the Tribal Council’s District 1 representative, credited much of the success finding the land and keeping the project alive over the years to Evan Davenport, her predecessor on the council.
“I just jumped in where he left off,” Sweat said. “I have had a lot of help.”
Sweat said the location is better than one several miles outside of Rowland that had been considered.
“This site is convenient because it offers fire and police protection and is close to pharmacies and doctors,” Sweat said. “It is more convenient to serve the elders as a meeting place.”
Jennifer Hunt, who has been attending meetings of the South Robeson Elders Club, was happy that there will soon be a community center where organizations can meet. Currently, the 20 elders in her club meet weekly at the Arts and Expo Center on Main Street in Rowland.
“We are energized,” she said. “This has been a long time in coming. We’ve prayed hard for this.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.