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HUB New Orleans designed to revitalize S. Broad

30 Apr 2012

By Zoe Sullivan
Contributing Writer

Striking graffiti covers 4035 Washington Avenue, both inside and out. One particular piece, depicting a man with what appears to be a lowered rifle, prompted some of those assembled to ask whether Banksy, the famous street artist, had been at the site. Last fall, those responsible for the building invited local artists to use it as a space for their work, and then followed up the art-making with a party. Over the next few months, the building will transform from a haven for street art to a hub for social entrepreneurs.

Bubbling with excitement about the groundbreaking, Andrea Chen, executive director of Social Entrepreneurs of New Orleans (SENO), explains that social entrepreneurship is about for-profit or non-profit businesses solving systemic social problems.

Currently, this intersection at South Broad is home to only four visible businesses. But that may soon change. This focus comes across clearly at the corner of Washington Ave. and S. Broad Street where HUB New Orleans is taking shape. This “hub” comes out of a collaboration between SENO and Green Coast Enterprises (GCE). Founded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, GCE is a real estate developer “with a special focus on coastal areas threatened by climate change,” according to the firm’s website. Both SENO and GCE aim to make profitability an aspect of positive social change.

Chen explained to The Louisiana Weekly that while many people consider social entrepreneurs to be “hippy dippy,” “In our accelerator last year, we showed a 2,200 percent return on investment for SENO.” Getting more specific, Chen said: “For every $10,000 that we’ve invested in support for a social entrepreneur, they’ve leveraged that within 10 months into $220,000 in external investment and revenues.” She also pointed out that SENO’s nine fellows created 40 new jobs last year, of which 30 are full-time.

The hub will house “co-working desks, commercial offices, conference rooms, [a] kitchen, and small-scale manufacturing and prototyping space,” according to a press release from SENO. Although the same press release estimates that the facility will serve 60 to 100, Chen says that she expects 300 to 400 people to use the services offered at the site.

Entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones finding a new home in the building, since the Laurel Street Bakery will be opening a new shop there and other groups such as Global Green and the Broadmoor Development Corporation will have offices as well.

Some of the funding for this project is coming from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, NORA. Executive director Jeff Hebert spoke with The Louisiana Weekly and explained that the Hub project and a housing development on S. Saratoga St. with 12 condominiums were both “long in the making.” He explained that federal stimulus money is supporting the housing project, while community development block grant funds from disaster-related monies designated for commercial corridors are directed toward the Hub initiative.

“We want to spark interest and spark development in areas that have not seen private sector movement in a long time, but the neighborhood and the community deserves the reinvestment,” Hebert said.

On the other side of the intersection, another much-needed service is being ushered into life. South Broad Community Health will be a community health clinic that sits in the building catty-corner from 4035 Washington Ave. Like it’s counterpart across the street, the clinic’s building will undergo renovations so that it can begin serving the five communities surrounding the intersection: Broadmoor, Freret, Gert Town, Hoffman Triangle and Zion City.

Will Bradshaw, president of Green Coast Enterprises, explained that a needs assessment conducted in 2008 in conjunction with Tulane University School of Medicine revealed that hypertension, cancer and diabetes plague the area. What shocked Bradshaw, however, about the assessment’s findings, were people’s expectations of health care.

“People were satisfied with the quality of care they were receiving,“Bradshaw said, and they were satisfied because they could see a doctor on the same day. But, Bradshaw pointed out, most of the people who responded this way were seeing an emergency room physician as their primary care provider. “If people don’t expect to be treated better than they are, then they’re not going to insist upon it.” For Bradshaw, the clinic aims to change the care available to people, and hopefully, their expectations. “What’s exciting about their model is that it’s intended to serve and address some of those issues, but it’s also intended to be a clinic of choice. It will serve the total demographic of this area.”

Beth Winkler-Schmit, who presides over the clinic’s board of directors, told The Louisiana Weekly that the clinic will start with one physician to serve the five neighborhoods, but that there is room for growth. The clinic will focus on primary care, Winkler-Schmit said.“Our purpose and mission is to provide education to the community and preventative health care. Part of this will be accomplished through classes at the clinic on topics such as preventing diabetes through healthy nutrition.”

“One of the challenges still facing the clinic, however, is its funding. We need 75 percent of our first-year operating budget before we open our doors,” Winkler-Schmit told The Louisiana Weekly, “so we have a lot of work to do.” The clinic will be applying for funds from the Louisiana Public Health Institute in partnership with Tulane, and Winkler-Schmit pointed out optimistically, “there are a lot of resources out there and New Orleans is kind of a hot topic on the national front, especially around health.”

This article was originally published in the April 30, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper