The largest expansion of Kingsley House since it moved to its Constance Street location almost a century ago was celebrated by philanthropists and officials Thursday as they broke ground on the Lower Garden District social service agency’s new building.
The 24,000-square-foot building is expected to be completed in about a year. It will be named for Patrick F. Taylor, the New Orleans oil magnate and philanthropist who pushed for the agency’s expansion before his death in 2004 and whose foundation was a significant donor to the new campus.
“This will get more children off the waiting lists and into a phenomenal facility designed specifically to meet their growth and development needs,” said Keith Liederman, CEO of Kingsley House. “And it will allow more medically fragile adults and senior citizens to live in their own homes and communities as long as possible.”
The building will be evenly divided between classrooms for about 100 children and space for its Adult Health Care and Senior Center program, which will serve a similar number of adults.
“This brings together some of the youngest members of our city with some of the oldest members of our city,” state Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, said at the groundbreaking. “I have no doubt generations of New Orleanians will benefit from this project.”
The campus will be built with $6 million in state money, $2 million in a partially forgivable loan from the state’s Office of Community Development, $1.7 million in private donations and $1.6 million from a transaction involving New Market Tax Credits that is being handled by the Low Income Investment Fund and Chase Bank.
The organization is launching another campaign to raise $2 million to pay off the loan, with the goal of settling that debt by the time the new campus opens its doors.
Kingsley House, founded in 1896, provides a variety of services to about 7,000 children, seniors and medically disabled adults. Those include Head Start and Early Head Start, the Educare New Orleans early childhood education program, and programs and services for adults and seniors on the campus or in their homes.
The project has been in the works for 15 years, since Taylor began working to ensure that Kingsley House would be able to expand onto the vacant lot next to its campus. That included convincing the Orleans Parish School Board, which owned the property, to enter into an agreement that would allow Kingsley House to build on it.
With that done, the project seemed ready to go until Hurricane Katrina hit the area, upending those plans and requiring the nonprofit to seek more sources of funding. Phyllis Taylor, Patrick Taylor’s widow, praised the tenacity of the Kingsley House board and officials for pushing through those challenges.
“For 15 years, we’ve been saying the funding is here and, oops, it’s gone,” she said.
“The youth of this city and the elderly need the best care possible, and that’s what they will certainly get at Kingsley House,” she said.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.