Affordable housing complex backed by LeBron James unveiled in Akron
Officials celebrated the opening of the new I Promise Housing apartment complex in Akron Thursday, just a half mile from LeBron James' I Promise School.
The 50-unit complex is meant to provide affordable housing, and stability, to families who need it across Akron, including families with children at the school. Officials said there will be social services available on the first floor of the building as well, including financial counseling and mental health services.
Janette Brown, a mother of two whose son goes to the I Promise School, got her keys to her new apartment in the housing complex Thursday morning.
"I'm a person that loves being the first of something," she said, smiling. "I love the fact that I get to be one of the first ones to move in. My son was one of the first to start at the I Promise School."
She also works at House Three Thirty, an economic-development and job-training center opened by the LeBron James Family Foundation earlier this year. Brown says that foundation lives up to its "we are family" slogan.
"They won't let you lag in any area of your life; your confidence, your self-esteem, your appearance, your financial growth, your health," she said.
Gloria James, LeBron’s mother, who works with the foundation, says I Promise Housing is part of a new model of “community building" in Akron, meant to lift up the area's residents who struggle to make ends meet. Along with House Three Thirty, the LeBron James Family Foundation has opened a transitional housing complex called the I Promise Village, and is working to open a new "HealthQuarters" across the street from House Three Thirty that will provide healthcare to low-income Akron residents.
"LeBron always says leave a place better than you did when you found it," she said. "This is a way of not only doing that, but inspiring all our families and everyone to do the same."
The I Promise Housing complex came about as a result of a partnership between James' foundation and the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation, along with community partners and banking organizations, officials said in remarks prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday. Because of that collaboration, the $16 million project received $11 million in tax credits, which helped make it possible.
Cheryl Stephens, president and CEO of the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation, said the pandemic and skyrocketing building costs were hurdles that had to be navigated while developing the project. But she said the end result is meant to showcase the community's values.
"Housing for everyone is part of the American dream," Stephens said. "You must in this country believe that there's that peace for you, and that peace for you involves a decent education, a good job, and a good place to live."
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said the city is lucky to have the support of the James family.
"The most special thank you to you," Horrigan said, gesturing to Gloria James in the audience. "To you and your family, as you keep Akron in your heart and we see that; I get chills just thinking about your commitment."
Anna Deger, vice president of residential services at the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corporation, said rent at the I Promise Housing complex starts at roughly $700 and goes to about $1,100, for two, three and four-bedroom apartments. She said the housing is reserved for low-income residents who earn half or less of the area median income, with an expectation that 40% of residents will be using housing vouchers to help subsidize their rent.
Brown, the new tenant, said she was excited for each of her children to finally have their own room, after 15 years spent living in a two-bedroom house. Applications are still open for the building.