A groundbreaking ceremony in Jackson, Miss., this fall marked a new beginning for a long-vacant hotel that will feature Breakthrough Challenge winner Gulf Coast Housing Partnership’s Health + Housing concept.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba joined real estate developer GCHP along with co-developer Pearl Street CDC and UnitedHealthcare at the event for The Pearl, a $28 million affordable housing and health care community for seniors.

The Pearl “satisfies two vital needs for the city of Jackson,” said Mayor Lumumba. “First, it will provide needed medical care for our residents. Second, it will redevelop and renovate a highly visible section of our city that has suffered from years of neglect and blight. These are the kind of projects and partnerships we seek to elevate in our pursuit of an economy based on the dignity of all residents.”

The Pearl will have 76 one- and two-bedroom apartments for people 55 or older. Developers designed the community with elements that facilitate aging in place, including a pool, fitness center, and community room. The first Fitwel-certified building in Mississippi, The Pearl will offer prominent walkways and stairwells to encourage movement.

Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center will operate the onsite Federally Qualified Health Center and employ community health care workers who will serve both residents of The Pearl and the surrounding community.

“This project will have a profound and direct impact in addressing and reducing the health disparities that so many of our patients face, such as transportation, access to care, food insecurities, and access to mental and behavioral services,” said JHCHC Chief Executive Officer Jasmin Chapman.

The Pearl is the second of two pilot projects for GCHP’s award-winning Health + Housing concept, one of six Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge innovation winners selected in August 2020. GCHP and partners broke ground on the first Health + Housing site, H3C, in New Orleans in March 2022.

The innovation uses investments provided by health care insurers, including Medicaid managed care organizations, to help fund developments like The Pearl. In Jackson, UnitedHealthcare is supporting The Pearl with an investment of $3 million as part of its commitment to affordable housing and health care in Mississippi.

“It is our goal to ensure our members have the housing, health care, and employment necessary to live healthier lives and thrive in their communities,” said J. Michael Parnell, chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Mississippi.

For Pearl Street AME Church Pastor Samuel H. Boyd, who is executive director of Pearl Street CDC, the desire to create senior housing in Southwest Jackson first came to him as a vision in 2007. Seven years later, he said, the answer to his prayers arrived when the vacant hotel on Highway 80 was listed for sale.

GCHP’s Health + Housing innovation recognizes the significant role quality affordable housing and access to culturally competent health care have on health and well-being. The health care delivery model is inspired by the learnings of Dr. Aaron Shirley, a Mississippi physician and health care visionary.

Read coverage on The Pearl’s groundbreaking in Affordable Housing Finance and Biz New Orleans.