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$200M investment: The next decade of hope for Orlando’s Washington Shores

todayDecember 27, 2022 45

Background

For the past 20 years, I’ve been fighting the status quo in Washington Shores. And through the Hope Center West community development initiative, we’ve come a long way in bringing transformation and hope to the disenfranchised neighborhood I grew up in.

To many Central Florida residents, the name “Washington Shores” is a blanket term for several historically Black neighborhoods in southwest Orlando. Since its initial development in the 1940s, many of the area’s residents have struggled to thrive in the face of entrenched challenges like underdeveloped infrastructure, lack of affordable and attainable housing, and an overstressed educational system.

I’ve lived here for much of my life, and I’ve experienced the impact of those inequities firsthand. But it wasn’t until I began ministering to my neighbors as a church leader that I realized how many families and children were living in substandard housing in deplorable conditions. This compelled me to act.

That divine call began my lifelong mission: to address not only the obvious, visible needs of the community, but to promote change from the inside out. This mission extended beyond the four walls of conventional ministry and welcomed other organizations having the common goal of pursuing transformation. Government, nonprofits, local businesses, residents — all of us wanted to build Washington Shores into something better. A shared vision and plan were our stated way of getting there.

Since 2001, we’ve invested tens of millions of dollars and countless hours of sweat equity into making the Hope Center West campus a reality. The “Live, Work, Learn, Play and Worship” ecosystem represents our network of nonprofits and community partners that have created more learning spaces for children, revived a family sports center and attracted a Walmart Neighborhood Market as an affordable solution to an overwhelming food desert.

Housing has been integral to our vision, and the city of Orlando, faith-based organizations and philanthropic contributors have supported us in purchasing and improving several apartment buildings and single-family homes. We’ve maintained some of the lowest rents in the area, provided rent and utility relief, and paid for emergency hotel stays for families in crisis.

The Village Square, a remodeled historical mall, hosts several local business owners and, itself, is an incubator, where startup owners can nurture their entrepreneurial dreams. The schools, mall, Walmart and other national chains on the campus have created hundreds of jobs.

After two decades, we’ve achieved much, but our job isn’t finished. Immediately ahead, is a $200 million investment plan that is sustainable, safe and fosters experiences essential to one’s personal development and success. Our housing plans will deploy creative paths to homeownership with a social concentration on building families.

Our plans also will include cutting-edge approaches to business and economic development and the application of emerging technologies. The construction of the new Legends Academy’s facilities will ensure the preparation of our children to compete globally. Culture, arts and environmentally sensitive spaces will be a central feature our development.

At Hope Center West, we’re doing our part to carry out a calling to cultivate a community that puts the family first — giving every person opportunity, upward mobility and hope for the future.


Archbishop Allen T.D. Wiggins is the senior pastor of The Hope Church of Orlando, founder of Hope Center West and presiding Prelate of The International Bishops’ Conference Inc. He serves on several boards including Lift Orlando and The First Academy, and is a global champion of human dignity, fraternity, innovation and access for the underserved.

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