The swish of autumnal winds welcomed community members and guests to an outdoor ribbon-cutting ceremony yesterday. They had gathered for the official dedication of the Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The dedication took place almost two years to the day since Jordan and Novant Health announced his more than $7 million donation to develop two comprehensive medical clinics that expand access to healthcare for children and adults in underserved and at-risk communities of Charlotte.
The newly-built medical clinic is located west of the Center City. Novant Health will deliver high-quality, affordable primary care and preventative care – including behavior health, physical therapy, social work, oral health and family planning – from real estate sited for close-in proximity to their patients’ neighborhoods, on a business corridor easily accessible via public transit and next door to the county’s department of social services.
Standing at the podium, an emotional Jordan, who is the majority owner of the NBA Charlotte Hornets, expressed his desire to make a tangible difference with his family and business partners in the long-view of improving the lives of local residents at-risk for generational poverty.
“The money doesn’t matter, the name really doesn’t matter,” said Jordan of his contribution. “It’s this commitment that I’ve partnered up with — unbelievable partners, who see a need within this community, based on the stats that I’m pretty sure you guys have heard and read about, that are devastating — to make an impact and to make a change.”
Jordan assured, “This is just a start.”
In 2017, when Novant Health announced the Jordan family’s gift, Jordan had been moved by results of the Equality of Opportunity Project, an in-depth study from Harvard University and the University of California, Berkeley, which documented Charlotte as having the worst odds for upward economic mobility of children living locally in poverty – 50th out of 50 U.S. cities studied. In Charlotte, a child’s odds of moving from the bottom-fifth percentile of family income to the top-fifth when they are an adult are just 4.4%. Those odds naturally shook the community.
Alarmed by the unsettling findings, the research reinvigorated local leadership. They formed the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, whose members endeavored to address the socioeconomic divide and the barriers to opportunity. They investigated why the chances of ascending out of poverty were so low for children born in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and, based on their findings, recommended actions for change. Their 92-page report, Leading On Opportunity, offers 21 strategies, 91 recommendations, and over 100 tactics as starting points for change.
Through the Task Force’s work, Novant Health was identified as one of many key stakeholders actively involved and capable of guiding bold actions to better serve Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Just last month, Novant Health pledged $6 million to the Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund, a private sector affordable housing finance fund created by the Foundation For The Carolinas to serve as a critical component for fostering upward mobility. Novant Health’s pledge helped the fund reach its goal of $50 million, which matched the City of Charlotte’s $50 million housing bond referendum.
“While our team members look to improve quality of life within our facilities, it’s important for us to recognize that well-being starts at home,” said Carl S. Armato, president and chief executive officer for Novant Health in a statement. “We are diligently pursuing strategies to tackle the challenges surrounding social determinants of health in our communities, of which safe and affordable housing is a key concern in the Charlotte area.”
Headquartered in Winston-Salem, Novant Health is a not-for-profit healthcare system serving patients and communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. Their facilities include hospitals, acute care medical centers, outpatient surgery centers, neighborhood medical plazas, rehabilitation programs, diagnostic imaging centers and community health outreach programs. Novant Health is identified by Forbes as one of America’s Best Employers For Diversity 2019, ranked 38th on the list.
Neighboring Concepts was selected to provide design and construction administration services for the Jordan-funded clinics, due to their firm’s mission to improve the quality of life for residents and businesses in socially and physically challenged urban neighborhoods.
“Neighboring Concepts has enjoyed working with Novant Health and the Michael Jordan Family on the new medical clinics,” said architect and project manager Frank A. Little, AIA. “Being included on this team was an easy fit for us, as we all share a common vision of working to engage, understand and improve our underserved communities.”
The firm designed a special architectural element that welcomes visitors to the clinic, commemorates a prior land use and symbolizes the inspirational qualities of Jordan’s athletic abilities on the basketball court.
“Through research on the history of the surrounding area,” said Little, “we discovered the selected site is on what once was Charlotte’s original airport, Cannon Airport. The site’s connection to flight has a natural segue to how Michael Jordan wowed spectators through the way he could fly.”
Using footage of Jordan playing basketball, Neighboring Concepts mapped out his flight path to the basket. “From this curve, we designed a sculptural screen that stretches the width of the façade, where the tips of each of the 39 aluminum fins hit a point along his path,” Little explained. “The resulting sculpture not only captures the inspirational and dynamic movement of Michael Jordan, but also resembles feathers or a wing, connecting the clinic to the history of the site.”
At 7,400 square feet with 12 patient rooms, the clinic opened three weeks ago and professional staff have already cared for more than 300 patients. The second medical clinic is on track to complete in late 2020 on the city’s north side. Novant Health forecasts that over a five-year time period, the Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinics will care for 35,000 children and adults.