Gainesville Housing Authority breaks ground on jobs training center

L-R Lancelot Wallace, Malcolm Kiner, Stephanie Seawright, Michael Eaton, Freddie Jones, Ralph Hilliard, Pamela Davis, George Johnson, Angela Tharpe, breaking ground on the new jobs training center.
L-R Lancelot Wallace, Malcolm Kiner, Stephanie Seawright, Michael Eaton, Freddie Jones, Ralph Hilliard, Pamela Davis, George Johnson, Angela Tharpe, breaking ground on the new jobs training center.
Photo by Glory Reitz

The Gainesville Housing Development Management Corporation (GHDMC) and Gainesville Housing Authority (GHA) broke ground on a new jobs training center on Wednesday. The center, which is aimed at serving GHA residents and the rest of the Gainesville community, is expected to open in December. 

“It is a great day when we can start a project that is going to not only transform this portion of the community, but also make sure that we enable our residents to be self-sufficient,” Angela Tharpe, board chair of GHA and GHDMC, said in a speech. “At the end of the day, that’s the only way we secure a legacy for each of their families, is to enable them to be able to take care of their families as best they can with skills that they can carry on past today or tomorrow.” 

GHDMC is a non-profit that coordinates with the housing authority to advocate for low-income families and develop quality affordable homes and sustainable communities. 

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The jobs training center at 2626 E University Ave. is part of that mission. 

The jobs training center will be a partnership with businesses to train community members in skills for entry level positions with good wages, according to Pamela Davis, CEO of GHA and GHDMC. She said several businesses have shown interest in the partnership, including the North Central Florida Apartment Association for maintenance jobs. 

Angela Tharpe said the jobs training center could help create a legacy.
Photo by Glory Reitz Angela Tharpe said the jobs training center could help create a legacy.

Lancelot Wallace, a GHA maintenance employee, said his understanding of the jobs training center is that it will help people become self-sufficient. 

“A person with a skill, like myself, it puts you in another level,” Wallace said in an interview. 

The facility is expected to open in early December, a quick turnaround due in part to its location in an existing building that once housed a preschool. After 12 years of vacancy and storage use, the building is being renovated to house the ELITE training center. (ELITE stands for empowerment, life skills, innovation, training and entrepreneurship.) 

Davis said the original intent of public housing is for residents to move “in, up and out.” 

“GHA is about economic empowerment, and economic wellbeing,” Davis said in an interview. “This is just one of the ways that we can say to the community that we are working toward our mission and our vision and our goal.” 

One of GHA’s initiatives is Choice Neighborhood, an improvement process that covers 1.5 miles on the east side of Gainesville. 

Last year, the city of Gainesville and GHA received the $500,000 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Using this planning grant, GHA has been gathering community input on improving the neighborhoods, bringing in part-time community ambassadors and holding events to bring the community together. 

The grant comes with $150,000 for an Early Action Project, which Davis said has not yet been identified, but which must be visible to the community. 

Early Action sign
Photo by Glory Reitz One aspect of the Choice Neighborhoods planning phase is gathering community input for the early action project.

After using the planning grant, Gainesville will have the opportunity to apply for the Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant, which could provide between $30 million and $50 million to revitalize Lake Terrace and Pine Meadows. 

The jobs training facility is not part of the Choice Neighborhood initiative, but Davis said GHA is linking the two together to help people see what is possible in their community. 

“The Choice Neighborhood Initiative, it really has an opportunity to be catalytic for East Gainesville and East University corridor,” GHA chief operating officer Malcolm Kiner said in a speech. 

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