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New Charlottesville Venture to Make Second Street Green - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

New Charlottesville Venture to Make Second Street Green

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Two Charlottesville business men are in the process of planning a new venture to help people secure a job.

Toan Nguyen, the owner of C'ville Coffee, and Bernard Whitsett, a financial consultant and the chair of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce Minority Business Council, plan to create what they are calling the Green Dot Collaborative in an empty warehouse on Second Street.  

It will be a multi-use space where people can receive job training, work as a member of a co-op, or rent space and facilities for their own business ventures.

Whitsett said the goal is "creating skill sets and job creation that would allow for this area, which seems to be rather dormant now, to suddenly be rebirthed and to grow."  

It will also be a for-profit enterprise, and they plan on securing investors for the estimated $2 million cost of the project. People who work at the facility will become part owners through the co-op system.  Those who pay to rent the space for their own use will be funding the project as well.      

Nguyen and Whitsett said they hope the project will provide job opportunities for people at all different career levels. Those just getting started can get training, those who are already trained in a profession can get work, and people looking to start their own businesses have a place to start without securing their own office or facility.

"It's a whole journey that they can embark on from first getting a job, to being manager, to being an owner. And throughout the whole life-cycle of employment we will help them every step of the way," Nguyen said.

They say the majority of lower income residents in the area are single moms, many of whom have trouble securing jobs because of transportation and child care issues. That's why they plan to develop this facility right in an area that they say is in need of economic development. That way, people from low income households have easy access to it.  They also plan to put a child care facility in the building to allow people to drop off their kids at their job, and as a way to have kids around to train people who want to go into child care professions.

"There are unemployed people that need to be put to work and our vision is to help them to facilitate them going to work," Whitsett said.

The initial funding will go into renovating the existing building and adding facilities such as an industrial kitchen. Eventually, though, new buildings could be constructed on the lot, as well as additions to the existing building. It could be a mixed-use space, they say, where there could be large buildings with residential space on the top and shops and restaurants below. They hope that the building will have facilities to train people in culinary arts, painting, cleaning, and laundry services, among other things.  

The project got its name from the 2011 Orange Dot Project study which gave orange dots to poor areas of certain communities and green dots to prosperous areas. The report revealed large income disparities in Charlottesville, with the city looking green overall, but having several areas that were dark orange.

After reading the report, members of the Emerging Leaders in Architecture, a branch of the American Institute of Architects, wanted to do something to eradicate these income disparities. They contacted Charlottesville City Council Member Kathy Galvin who reached out to Nguyen and Whitsett, among others.  The two men say their goal is to now turn the area around Second Street green.

"Our vision is about creating economic empowerment, primarily for the orange dot area of Charlottesville," Whitsett said. "We want to break the generational chain of poverty."     

They say the project is like a "three-legged stool." The first leg is the Community Investment Collaborative, which Nguyen is the chair of. According to their mission statement, that organization "leverages community resources to provide capital and education to entrepreneurs who have difficulty accessing funding from traditional sources and who seek an educational support system that is relevant to their business needs."

The second part of the plan involves the Chamber Minority Business Council, which teaches people about business protocol and practices and helps them to gain access to people who want their services.

The third leg, they say, is public policy that allows for a vibrant community with economic growth. However, Whitsett notes, "everybody has to have access to it."        

Right now, the idea is just a vision the two men share, but they say they plan to have a solid business plan by September.

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