YWCA Greater New Orleans Hosts Groundbreaking Ceremony
“The YWCA is about resilience, and we hope this building will be a testament to their determination and dedication to the community.””
Gabriel Virdure, AIA, Associate
October 4, 2022 – New Orleans, LA - A groundbreaking ceremony this morning at the site of the new YWCA facility in Mid-City marked a vital step in the return of crucial programs for women, children, and seniors in the Greater New Orleans area.
In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters destroyed the YWCA building, they also washed away the YWCA’s hallmark services, including domestic violence and rape crisis counseling, financial education, daycare, after-school programming, and other offerings to enrich youth and empower women. These programs had been an integral part of the YWCA’s contributions to the Greater New Orleans area since the chapter was founded over a century ago.
Now, thanks to the tireless efforts of the YWCA Board of Directors, committed volunteers and fundraising partners, the YWCA will have a permanent home at the corner of South Norman C. Francis Parkway and D’Hemecourt Streets.
“This rebuilding effort has been a journey marked by faith, despite the many obstacles encountered throughout this process,” said Loyce Pierce Wright, President of the New Orleans YWCA Board of Directors. “For 100 years, the YWCA Greater New Orleans, has been a beacon of light for women and children in our communities, and we knew that we could not allow that light to be extinguished. And so this groundbreaking is emblematic of a rebuilding effort marked by faith. In this new state-of-the art facility, once again, women will be able to turn to us for support, guidance, and advocacy. Children will be able to receive assistance in their growth and overall learning in a safe, nurturing environment. Today is an example of our community’s collective power and its prioritization of caring for women and girls. With this groundbreaking, we are on the path toward achieving what many deemed impossible. We will continue to chart the course toward eliminating racism and empowering women.”
The return of the YWCA has been a 17-year journey fueled by these determined volunteers despite fundraising challenges. Due to their fortitude, the project is now moving forward. Through lengthy negotiations with FEMA, a grant from the state of Louisiana, support from Mayor Latoya Cantrell’s office and other fundraising efforts, the YWCA Board and volunteers managed to secure the funding needed for the $10 million construction budget.
“Today is a huge win for women of all ages, ethnicities, and demographics across the City of New Orleans,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “For over a century, YWCA Greater New Orleans has tirelessly served the women of this community, and while they have had no true place to call home since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, this is a major step to ensuring the services they provide can continue to positively impact the women of our great City. This new state-of-the-art community center will provide quality mental and maternal health services, as well as jobs for low-to-moderate income individuals, falling in line with the overall vision of the Mayor’s Office of Youth and Families, which I created as one of first acts as Mayor, to provide much needed support to marginalized and underserved communities. We will continue to make the necessary and critical investments in our women and children to ensure we are moving this City forward and creating a more inclusive and equitable environment in which all people can live and thrive.”
“Equity in education starts before kindergarten. There is nothing more valuable and empowering to a mother than to have a trusted pre-school/daycare."”
Paula Peer, AIA, Principal
Trapolin-Peer Architects was chosen as the design team for the project back in 2009. The New Orleans firm known for pioneering the revitalization and transformation of New Orleans’ Warehouse District, drew on its extensive background in early head start/preschool design to design the state-of-the-art two-story, 16,967 square foot facility. The firm consolidated the Y’s multiple buildings to create one cohesive space the YWCA and the community can be proud of. Trapolin-Peer designed the women’s center and daycare spaces with the Y’s core mission to help women in mind. There are also multiple training spaces, resource areas, staff offices and flex spaces that can be used for a range of educational programs including parenting classes and counseling.
“While the loss of their buildings and staff was a major challenge for the YWCA, it gave them the opportunity to re-imagine and re-organize the facility into a safe space for learning and counseling for the next generation,” said Gabriel Virdure, Associate at Trapolin-Peer Architects. “Consolidating the buildings gave the YWCA the ability to determine how to best utilize their property while providing a familiar presence in their Mid-City neighborhood. The original building that faced S. Norman C. Francis was a 1-story brick building and we wanted to be sensitive to that corner while still upgrading the space to a 2-story building so all programs could be housed under one roof. The YWCA is about resilience, and we hope this building will be a testament to their determination and dedication to the community.”
“Equity in education starts before kindergarten,” said Paula Peer, Principal/Architect at Trapolin-Peer Architects. “There is nothing more valuable and empowering to a mother than to have a trusted pre-school/daycare. TPA has designed multiple facilities for Kingsley House and Total Community Action, Inc. and it was a pleasure to be able to apply our experience to help the YWCA get theirs back in service. The YWCA Women’s Center is also an important part of the building’s programming, creating a hub for all of the Y’s services to the community.”
With the return of the YWCA’s physical structure, comes the return of the group’s local programming and legislative advocacy aimed at eliminating racism and empowering women by creating real change for women, families, and communities. And this story of resilience and dedication is only the beginning, as the YWCA Board is already taking steps towards reopening the transitional housing for women and families seeking safety from domestic violence. “The long-awaited return of YWCA programs and services brings hope to hundreds of women, girls and families in the Greater New Orleans area who are suffering from the ravages of domestic violence, rape, child abuse/neglect or elderly isolation,” said Gail Glapion, Executive Director (ret.) YWCA Greater New Orleans.
Construction on the new YWCA will begin later this month with plans to open the facility in late 2023. VPG Construction is serving as the General Contractor. “We are honored to serve as the General Contractor alongside a team of conscious thought leaders and visionaries who have spent their lives empowering, improving, and impacting the black community, specifically women,” said Vincent Weaver, President, Partner, VPG Construction. “As black business owners, me, my team, our families, and many of our colleagues have a firsthand understanding of the critical role the YWCA of Greater New Orleans plays in the lives of people everywhere, and we are passionate about delivering a great product that we believe will impact lives for generations to come. Building for organizations like the YWCA truly makes our job more meaningful.”
Real estate developer and investment firm, Kupperman Companies, is recognized for playing a pivotal role in helping to secure the gap funding needed for the project. Additionally, real estate law firm Steeg Law was critical to the negotiations in securing the funding with the State Office of Community Development.
Since its inception in 1911, the YWCA of New Orleans has developed into one of the most innovative and productive YWCAs in the country. The mission of the Board of Directors is to rebuild the physical structure of the agency and re-establish the hallmark programs benefiting women, children and the elderly in the Greater New Orleans area. With a profound commitment to the community’s well-being, the YWCA is dedicated to providing excellent programs and services that effectively address community needs and help people to change their minds, bodies and lives. The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and and dignity for all. Visit www.ywcanola.com to join the efforts.
About Trapolin-Peer Architects
Trapolin-Peer Architects is a New Orleans-based design firm with expertise spanning historic renovation and new construction architecture for multi- and single family, hospitality, education, and mixed-use. Propelled by curiosity and possibility, the firm has transformed the New Orleans landscape through exploring relationships between people, function, and sustainability.
Trapolin-Peer’s recent local projects include Edna Karr High School, The Sazerac House, Fidelity Bank Headquarters at 353 Carondelet Street, The Julia at St. Charles, and the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans. The firm’s recent regional work includes The Pearl Hotel in Bay St. Louis, MS, Brent Lofts in Pensacola, FL, and Wellen Park Mixed-Use in Venice, FL. For more information about Trapolin-Peer Architects, visit www.trapolinpeer.com
Amy Barrios, MMS Nola