JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mayor Lenny Curry and Edward Waters College President Nat Glover on Wednesday announced a multimillion-dollar investment that would bring new dorms and a community athletic field to the college's Northwest Jacksonville campus.
Curry said he's included more than $8 million in next year's budget proposal, which he'll unveil later this month.
The athletic facility will allow the EWC football team to play on a home field for the first time. The facility and a running track will also be available for community use.
Glover, a former sheriff of Jacksonville, said the city investment is also important because the campus is in Health Zone One, meaning, the area has a high number of incidents involving heart health, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Those in the Newtown area said access to fresh produce and workout facilities is limited, which is why the community athletic field is a huge step in the right direction.
"We have a situation of food insecurity. Our individuals are able to get food, but their food is usually from convenience stores or things, such as a Family Dollar or Dollar Tree. Or, sometimes, the produce is not fresh," said George Maxey, the executive director of Newtown Success Zone -- an organization working to provide more options for food and exercise.
The field will provide a safe atmosphere for people who want to use the track and field and the new dorms will provide more suitable living conditions for students -- as the current dorms do not always have working heat and air conditioning.
"It makes a good impact and makes Edward Waters stand out to the community and it brings everything together," said Calvin Bennett, a senior drum major at EWC. "It will also be good for the band. We'll be able to march out on the field and have all the football games there."
Renee Bridges, who lives in the Newtown area, told News4Jax that she's thrilled about the idea of a community sports field coming to her neighborhood. She and other Newtown residents said the field will help families stay active and lead a healthier lifestyle.
Curry said the project is the result of discussions with Glover on the biggest needs of the historic inner-city college.
"This is a priority. Let's do it all," Curry said.
Glover said improving living conditions and improving the health and safety of the neighborhood are both needed.
"The big thing with me is investing in these young people, and if I've got students who are leaving because of dormitory facilities, then that's a big deal," Glover said. "I just lost a student who we may have to support down the line, and it will help with our retention rate at EWC."
Curry said that the investment is part of his Safe Neighborhoods campaign, and that more safety initiatives will be announced July 17, when he introduces the 2017-18 budget to City Council.
The closest YMCA and grocery store are each about 3 miles away from the area, so the Newtown Success Zone provides fitness classes a few times a month and also started a garden where people can buy fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables. To get involved, call Maxey at 904-470-8262.