Neighborhood Centers, Inc. Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center

The Gulfton-Sharpstown neighborhood in Houston, TX is one of the city’s poorest, with a 26.7% poverty rate and 52.4% of benchmarked median family income. Neighborhood Centers, Inc. has constructed a beacon of positivity in the area thanks to help from CBO Financial.

Founded in 1907, Neighborhood Centers, Inc. is the largest not-for-profit organization (in terms of total income) in Houston, TX. With an annual income of more than $130 million, it provides a comprehensive range of community-based programs and services for young people, families and seniors. Through 58 strategically located centers and educational facilities, the organization serves more than 200,000 neighbors across a 46-county region in Texas. By working hand-in-hand with the residents of underserved neighborhoods, Neighborhood Centers helps them discover and develop the necessary strengths and skills to become productive, self-sufficient individuals.

In 2008, CBO Financial’s subsidiary, Community Development Funding, provided $2.9 million in New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) financing to Neighborhood Centers for the new construction of the Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center. The construction project included asbestos abatement and demolition of a deteriorated and vacant nursing home with careful attention paid to retaining every tree on the property. In addition, a street connecting the site with the City of Houston’s adjacent multi-service center was closed and demolished, expanding the site to include more space for an outdoor village and marketplace to serve residents of the surrounding low-income community. CBO Financial was part of a financing team that ultimately secured a total of $10 million in NMTC for the Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center.

The four-acre Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center is now home to a charter elementary school and Head Start program as well as activities and classes including fitness instruction, leadership classes, financial workshops, immigration and citizenship assistance, after-school programs, and summer camps. For a $100 yearly membership per family ($30 for a youth membership), residents may take advantage of all activities and classes.

The Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center’s design resembles that of a community village. It features a welcome center for traditional community center activities; an art building with studio space for local artists; a reunion hall for performances and group activities; a business center for retail incubation and a community credit union; and a community park which includes a garden, marketplace and picnic space for families.

The Baker-Ripley Neighborhood Center is seeking LEED certification and is an outstanding example of green construction for nonprofits and neighborhood centers that serve underserved communities. From the inception of this project, residents and leaders in community building and design activities were engaged on a regular basis—contrary to typical community center development. The resulting building and public space design directly reflects the multicultural, vibrant and colorful look and feel of the neighborhood, and improves the health and well-being of its residents and the environment.