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  Monday, August 7, 2006
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Neighborhood House Capital Campaign
By Rick Winterson
      The South Boston Neighborhood House has hit 105, which qualifies it to be a South Boston tradition if there ever was one.  It’s right up there with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the L Street Brownies’ New Year’s Swim.  It is often called “the Ollie”, after its co-founder, Olivia Buckminster James.  But traditions change and grow, especially when an expansion becomes necessary.

     A while back, South Boston Online reported that the Gate of Heaven Hall was to be sold, and that the Neighborhood House had entered the winning bid.  The Hall has twice the usable space of the Neighborhood House’s present location on Seventh Street – 15,000 square feet compared to 7,500. 

     In addition, the Seventh Street location needs extensive repairs.  That makes it an issue of putting money into an existing but cramped site, versus investing capital funds for the long term in a much larger, state-of-the-art facility.

     The necessary variances are in place for the move.  The Neighborhood House will not only install and expand its programs in the new space, it is also pursuing agreements on the use of the new facilities by the Gate of Heaven School and other South Boston groups.  This means that the building will become a true community center.

     The Neighborhood House took out a “bridge loan”, which allowed them to purchase the Hall and begin initial cleanout.  Now, it is necessary to raise capital funds.  Approximately $3.5 million will be spent on Phase One of the relocation; another $2.3 million will be put into Phase Two, for a (gross) total spent of $5.8 million.  Roughly $2.3 million will be realized from the sale of Seventh Street and the Rectory profit share, which was part of the financing arrangement, leaving a (net) total of $3.5 million to be raised.

     At this time, all of these figures are estimates only, especially the working target of $3.5 million to be raised.

     To insure the money is properly raised and that the new operation is self-sustaining, the Neighborhood House is taking a novel approach.  They will use a “development consultant” to help with the capital fund drive.  John Hancock, who has been a Neighborhood House corporate benefactor for many years, has given them a $50,000 grant, which will be used to hire Andrea Fortunato & Associates during the first year of the campaign.  They will serve as the “development consultants”.  John Hancock will also work right alongside the Neighborhood House during this critical project.

     Bryan Van Dorpe, the Executive Director of the South Boston Neighborhood House, expects the capital campaign to start soon, perhaps in a month or two.  It’ll probably extend over the next 12 months.  The buildout might extend into 2008 – the Hall building is sturdy but old.  Certainly, the plumbing/electrical/interior appointments will need to be completely refurbished.

     A tentative two-level floor plan indicates some of the additional activities the Neighborhood House will add to its mission.  A complete basketball facility, a teen center, pre-school classrooms, an elevator, and a small outdoor playground are all part of the floor plan.  According to Van Dorpe, “We will retain the traditional Neighborhood House services, of course, but the new location will allow us to be flexible, and to respond to changing demographics.”  Kevin Martin, President of the Neighborhood house Board, says, “When the Hall became available, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.  I am confident this project will be successful.”

     The structure’s roofline and façade will remain the same, except that a few small gables may be added to the roof.  And of course, the new Neighborhood House will be just three blocks from the Seventh Street building – a mere hop, skip, and a jump. 



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The Gate of Heaven Hall, soon

to become the new Neighbor-

hood House.