COCA Center of Creative Arts

St. Louis, MO

COCA is a visual and performing arts facility housed in a former synagogue designed by renowned architect Eric Mendelsohn and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

COCA was conceived by Richard Baron, Chairman and CEO of McCormack Baron Salazar, after being approached by many arts organizations looking for affordable performance space. Without the provision of an affordable and well-equipped facility, non-profit, urban arts organizations like COCA are forced to use “makeshift” spaces in churches and schools or relocate to more affluent, suburban communities that can provide a better space. When a centrally-located, urban synagogue went up for sale, Mr. Baron seized the opportunity to use this building as such a facility. McCormack Baron Salazar developed the property keeping the debt costs low while at the same time funding the needed improvements to create a first rate facility.

The financing structure included public and private resources. COCA’s designation as a 501(c)(3) corporation laid the ground work for philanthropic support that included individual contributions (35% of the initial funding sources). Public participation included a soft loan and an Urban Development Action Grant. In addition, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) bonds were issued by the City Redevelopment Authority and purchased by the Mark Twain Banks.

Founded in 1986, COCA offers a unique blend of both performing and visual arts in its renovated facility. With a mission to enrich lives and build community through the arts, COCA now serves more than 50,000 people annually, both at its main facility and at area schools and community organizations. It has grown to become the fourth-largest, multi-disciplinary arts organization in the United States. The building’s accessibility, unique design and central location make COCA a community gathering space. COCA dedicates more than $800,000 annually to outreach and scholarship programs, making the arts accessible to students of all incomes.