The Pulaski County Brownfields and Our House partnered to redevelop the grounds of former Little Rock Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital into a campus that would best serve the needs of the organization and the community. Our House, Inc. provides Central Arkansas’ working homeless with housing, training and youth programs to help them succeed. A programming evaluation revealed the need for a new facility to address a variety of programs and space requirements, as well as the unique developmental needs of homeless and near-homeless children. This evaluation led to the creation and construction of the Our House Children’s Center. The Our House Children’s Center is a learning facility that offers important educational and enrichment opportunities that at-risk children often miss. This brownfield redevelopment project is a modern, flexible facility that demonstrates a commitment to ending the cycle of homelessness by providing a learning space for all of the community’s children to grow and thrive.
The Our House site was idle for 31 years (1982 – 2013). The site was located on the southeast corner of the former Veteran Administration (VA) Hospital grounds in Little Rock. The VA Hospital operated from 1949 – 1982. The remediation of the Our House site was completed in approximately four and half months – March 14, 2013 – July 25, 2013. The total acreage of the Our House site is 1.42 acres with an approximate remediation footprint of 1 acre. The remediation area included an approximately 8,850 square feet single-story structure. The structure consisted of the former hospital boiler plant and adjacent facility maintenance shops, as well as the removal of three underground storage tanks. Once the remediation work was complete, construction of the new Children’s Center took 12 months to complete. Construction began in June 2013 and concluded in June 2014. The total time frame from remediation to redevelopment of the Our House site was one year and three months.
When the hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead-based paint were properly removed, the demolition of the site structures was completed and soil was graded to drain. Once the remediation was completed, the construction contractor began preparing the entire site for final grade and located three underground storage tanks (UST) in the northwest corner of the property. Two 29,660 gallon USTs and one 13,746 gallon UST were removed, as was 576 tons of contaminated soil and 60,655 gallons of diesel fuel. Clean backfill was used. The site graded to drain; erosion and storm water control put in place. Cleanup funding was 100% provided by the EPA Pulaski County Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Sub grant. Our House was required to contribute a 20% cost-share match.
Because of the Our House Children’s Center, homeless and near-homeless children in central Arkansas are able to receive high-quality care and support, in a world-class facility, to help them grow, learn, and reach their full potential. The Children’s Center operates two programs: Little Learners, for 60 children age 0-5 each day, and Our Club, for 90 children age 6-17 each day. Both programs are licensed and quality-rated by the state child care licensing agency. Little Learners is a curriculum-based early childhood education center that provides all-day care, with the goal of helping children reach their developmental milestones and prepare for success in school.
The Our House Children’s Center impact on economic development is not demonstrated through an increase in taxes or new commercial space, but through the providing a pathway out of homelessness for families. This pathway includes free childcare for parents so they may concentrate on finding employment, or for working parents that cannot afford childcare. By providing this service, the parents are able to re-establish their families in the community.