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Better Family Life Cultural Educational and Business Center*

St. Louis, MO

Better Family Life, Inc. is a community development not-for-profit corporation dedicated to the prosperity and growth of the American family. Organized in 1983 out of a need to find internal solutions to the crises within the African American family, Better Family Life’s mission is to plan and establish social, cultural, artistic, youth, economic, housing and educational programs that help to promote positive and innovative changes within the metropolitan St. Louis and East St. Louis communities. Much of its programming is geared towards people who are unemployed, underemployed, disadvantaged and skill-deficient.

In 2005, Better Family Life and its 100 full-time employees were operating out of six locations scattered across the St. Louis area, without a central hub or space for permanent programming. The organization identified the abandoned former Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School building on the north side of St. Louis as an ideal building and location to host its activities and house a permanent Cultural Center. Listed on both the Missouri State and National Register of Historic Landmarks, the 100-year-old school was designed by world renowned architect William B. Ittner and is the most historically significant structure in the neighborhood.

By 2011, Better Family Life had fundraised over $2 million in hard equity for the project but had a $5 million gap to close and was having difficulty navigating the complexities of mixed-financing. MBS Urban Initiative’s $13 million New Markets Tax Credit investment, combined with turnkey developer services provided by McCormack Baron Salazar, ensured that the $13.1 million plan became a reality.

Today, the 60,030 square foot building has been restored and converted into an advanced, sustainable facility that hosts existing programs as well as allows for the expansion and the creation of new programs. The facility offers: job, life and specific skill-based programs; cultural programming and activities; financial and asset-building programs; computer literacy training; and continuing education classes.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.