Groundbreaking at 1210 Patterson Avenue (WFIR photo)

A Roanoke-based credit union will build a branch in a neighborhood where banks are not easily found. Federal grants are largely paying for a West End revitalization project anchored by a new Freedom First Credit Union Branch. The project will also include other commercial space and a community pavilion.WFIR’s Evan Jones has the story.

(Continue reading for the full Freedom First news release.)

Freedom First Holds Groundbreaking Ceremony for West End Project

Full-service credit union branch to open early 2014, along with community space

ROANOKE, Va. (March 21, 2013) – Freedom First Credit Union (FFCU), along with the City of Roanoke and the West End Center for Youth, held a groundbreaking ceremony today to celebrate the beginning of construction for the West End revitalization project. Plans for the site include an urban mix of commercial and meeting space, a community pavilion with a full-service production kitchen, and gardens to encourage and promote healthy financial and physical lifestyles.

The project will be anchored by a full-service Freedom First branch scheduled to open in early 2014, which will serve the West End, Hurt Park, and Mountain View neighborhoods, as well as commuters to downtown Roanoke.

“This important project will enable Freedom First to reach into the community with the financial education and specialized products we’ve developed to serve people of modest means,” says Credit Union President/CEO Paul Phillips. “Establishing a Community Development Financial Institution in the West End area of Roanoke gives people who are currently unbanked and under-banked a real opportunity to move toward long-term financial self-sufficiency.”

The West End project aligns with Freedom First’s unique mission and structure, which focuses on affordable housing, transportation, and financial education in addition to a broad range of traditional financial services. The credit union is working closely with nonprofit agencies, local government, and other businesses on this and other projects that serve community and economic development goals.

“We are excited to partner with Freedom First in this venture that will greatly expand the opportunities available to the families we serve,” says Joy Parrish, Executive Director of the West End Center, which owns the property and will oversee its community activities.

The planned production kitchen and gardens will enable the West End Center to bring fresh food and nutrition education to the neighborhood, and the community meeting space will accommodate educational initiatives.

“The West End is a neighborhood that is on the rise,” said Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill. “With existing assets like the West End Center, interesting housing stock, and proximity to downtown, the West End is poised to be an even better place to live and work. It is our hope that Freedom First’s investment in the neighborhood, and services that will be offered to residents and businesses, will be a catalyst to more rapid improvements.”