By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A pioneering initiative to create a home for Charlotte charities that serve children and families is nearing reality.
Backers of the new Children & Family Service Center, which will house nine agencies in a planned $14 million, five-story building in First Ward, have raised nearly $6 million, including a $2 million challenge grant from the Duke Endowment.
The grant, which must be matched, already has generated $1 million in new donations.
The $1.5 billion-asset foundation agreed to make the grant as part of its strategy of encouraging charities with a shared focus to work together.
“By being in the same building, they think they can complement each other’s service by virtue of being more aware of what each agency is doing and try to serve families in a more holistic fashion,” says Rhett Mabry, director of the foundation’s child care division.
The center, which will be next door to the First Ward Recreation Center on a block bounded by Davidson, Alexander, Fifth and Sixth streets, aims to serve as a one-stop shop for social services needed by families and children.
By sharing space in a single building, the nine agencies expect to save more than $500,000 a year in operating costs, particularly rent.
Rent, which will be charged by a new nonprofit being created to own and operate the building, will total an estimated $6 per square foot, compared to as much as $24 per square foot that some of the agencies are paying now, says Lauren Batten of Vandever Batten, campaign counsel for the project.
The center, which aims to raise $2.5 million more than its initial goal of $7 million, will borrow funds to pay for costs not covered by campaign.
The agencies, which are leasing the land from the city of Charlotte for $140,000 a year for 50 years, will occupy about half of the 100,000-square-foot building.
The remainder will be used either by the agencies or leased to other tenants.
Mabry says add spacing for other tenants helped secure a prime center-city location, and will help offset the lease from the city.
The agencies hope their proximity to one another will foster greater collaboration in tackling issues involving families and children.
They also aim to share administrative tasks, create space where clients can leave children while visiting member agencies and install technology to help better manage information and strengthen their internal and external communications.
“This is a real model of collaboration for similar agencies, regardless of their focus,” says Barbara Spradling, senior vice president for corporate real estate at Bank of America, and a member of the center’s campaign steering committee who has spearheaded the project. “And we need to do more of it, instead of everybody holding out their hand to the same people.”