First Chance for Children plans Heibel-March building renovation

Thursday, March 19, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:10 a.m. CDT, Thursday, March 19, 2009
The city of Columbia has tentatively agreed to let First Chance for Children occupy the Heibel-March building, located at the corner of Range Line Street and Wilkes Avenue. First Chance plans to raise $250,000 to renovate the building and make it the education organization's main office. Green technology will be used to make the nearly century-old building more energy efficient.

COLUMBIA — A Columbia-based children’s organization is seeking to restore and renovate the city-owned Heibel-March building.

The city has tentatively agreed to let First Chance for Children occupy the building at the corner of Range Line Street and Wilkes Avenue, said Philip Peters, executive director of First Chance for Children. The building, which was named a Most Notable Property by the city's Historic Preservation Committee in 2005, will serve as the main office for the organization.

First Chance for Children is a nonprofit organization that works with disadvantaged children and their families to prepare them for success in academics and life, according to the organization's Web site

Some of its activities include mentoring low-income parents, providing toys through their Lend and Learn Toy Libraries and raising community awareness for childhood education.

Peters said he thinks it will be a unique addition to the area.

“It’s going to be historic, green and child-friendly,” he said.

The location of the Heibel-March building is one reason First Chance became interested in the property. The building is just down the street from Eugene Field Elementary School and next to a park. Philips said he thinks this is a natural location to house such an organization.

According to the proposal submitted to the city on Dec. 19, First Chance will be able to better serve the community from this location because Field Elementary will close in June and could be turned into an early education center.

The location is also close to many of the families that First Chance serves.

“I think for the community, it will be really good because First Chance will be really accessible to them,” said Darin Preis, executive director of Central Missouri Community Action. “I think it will make the service of First Chance for Children more accessible, and they’ll be a little bit higher on the radar.”

According to a Missourian story, Central Missouri Community Action previously owned the building for eight years before turning ownership over to the city after CMCA could not secure enough funds for renovation.

Renovations made to the building will incorporate green technology and building design in accordance with Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, or LEED, certification standards. According to its Web site, LEED certification focuses on five sustainable areas in a building including “sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.”

Although the energy-efficient design is more expensive than typical renovations, the long-term benefits make it worth the extra money, architect Nicholas Peckham said.

“A typical roof might last 15 to 20 years or so and then you replace it, but a green roof could last for 60 years,” said Peckham, who will be in charge of renovating the property.

Although the renovation is expected to take three to four months, First Chance will spend the next two years raising the $250,000 it will cost. The organization plans to apply for Neighborhood Assistance tax credits and a Community Development Block Grant, as well as seek donations from private individuals and corporations, Peters said. It will finance the remaining costs with a private mortgage loan.

First Chance plans to begin moving into the building in December 2010. But, depending on how quickly funds are secured, the organization could potentially move in up to seven months earlier.

No matter when the building is completed, Peters said he believes it will be a beneficial asset to Columbia’s disadvantaged children and the school district.

“It looks very promising," he said. "It looks like a win-win.”

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