1) What is the New Orleans Healing Center?
The New Orleans Healing Center is a community center like no other. That’s because – unlike other community centers – the New Orleans Healing Center really is about healing. In fact, its core purpose and operating principles are based on United Nations guidelines for healing/sustainability.
Consequently, it is deliberately structured to be able to simultaneously help, heal, and empower individuals and surrounding neighborhoods at the economic, social, environmental, physical/mental, and spiritual levels.
It consists primarily of a grocery cooperative, street university, cooperative bank and micro loan institution, green business incubator, performance hall, healing arts collective, interfaith center, organic food restaurant…to name just a few of the current tenant businesses.
But more importantly, what really sets the New Orleans Healing Center apart, are the carefully selected ongoing community-focused programs, services, and activities – all designed to help revitalize and restore neighborhoods and bring them together.
Much more than just a physical building or large community meeting facility, the New Orleans Healing Center is a pioneering social/civic concept that provides both the framework and guidance for individuals and communities to help each other…and above all – themselves.
What’s more, in the coming year, we hope to have a website that will provide easy access and dynamic outreach to the community so they can experience and benefit from all we have to offer on a 24-hour online basis.
Here is a list of current business tenants. Please note that many of our community-oriented products, programs, seminars, and services may be offered either separately or in partnership with some of the businesses or names on this list.
- New Orleans Food Co-op Grocery Store
- The Street University
- Island of Salvation Botanica
- Interfaith Center
- Fatoush Restaurant, Coffee & Juice Bar
- Café Istanbul Performance Theater
- Crossroads Arts Bazaar
- Affordable Healing Arts
- The Movement Room Dance Studio
- The Building Block Green Businesses and Business Incubator
- Wild Lotus Yoga – Downtown Studio
- Full Circle Women’s Collective
- ASI Cooperative Bank and Micro Loan
- The Gallery Spaces
- Worldwide Concepts Travel
2) Where is the center; how was the property acquired; and where are the funds coming from to finance the construction?
The New Orleans Healing Center is located at 2372 St. Claude Avenue in the Old Universal Furniture building at the corner of St Roch Avenue.
The building was financed through a public-private partnership.
- 60% of the $12 million dollar-cost for this project comes from private, tax-incented investors – National Trust Community Investment Corp.
- The remaining 40% of the project funding is from low-interest loans from the City (NORA) and the State (ORD).
NOTE: Since the St. Claude / St. Roch intersection had already been designated by the City of New Orleans as a target zone for revitalization, and since the Healing Center was viewed as an appropriate catalyst to help begin the economic revitalization of the neighborhoods along the distressed St Claude corridor…this project easily qualified as a candidate for City/State loans.
3) Why was this location/community chosen?
If we were putting together just another community center, it could have gone anywhere. But we are talking about a community-healing center that is dedicated to helping and healing the surrounding neighborhoods. And based on the urban and economic criteria we evaluated, the neighborhoods along much of the St. Claude corridor seemed as though they could benefit the most from our locating the center where we have.
But there is another very important reason why this particular location was chosen. On the Lakeside of St Claude Avenue is a culturally rich, yet economically distressed, largely African-American neighborhood. On the Riverside of St Claude Avenue is a more racially and economically diverse neighborhood. Our goal is to bring these (and other) somewhat insulated communities into frequent and positive contact with one another where all can experience and benefit from each other’s similarities and differences. Because diversity is strength, wherever it is encountered…especially in a dynamic and thriving community.
4) Will there be profits and whom do they go to?
We expect it will be some time before any profits are realized. But, since this is a community-healing center, profits may be reinvested to help heal the neighborhoods and communities we serve and to subsidize the programs, products, and services offered by The New Orleans Healing Center to help the economically disadvantaged, who might otherwise not be able to take advantage of them.
5.) Impact of economic revitalization brought about by the Healing Center
The Healing Center does intend to bring economic revitalization to the St. Claude Corridor. It also intends to allow everyone to benefit from and participate in the improved local area’s economy. For example,
- The Street University will allow neighbors to teach what they know and get paid for it, while simultaneously offering courses on life skills, such as “How to buy a first home” and “How to balance a check book.”
- A micro-loan agency will offer small loans to help locals get started in their own businesses and a business incubator office will help provide business and resources until those new businesses are established.
- The Performance Theater will help put money in the pockets of numerous local musicians, actors, poets, dancers and performers.
- The Artisans Bazaar will provide affordable booths where artisans can sell their work.
- The New Orleans Food Co-op grocery will buy in bulk, and whenever possible, from local providers to keep prices down and support the local economy.
- All the businesses housed within the Healing Center will give first preference to hiring employees from the immediate area or from low/moderate income levels.
- Many of the tenants in the Healing Center have agreed to a subsidized sliding payment scale for their products, programs, and services to assure that all members of the community are able to access and benefit from all that we have to offer.
Ultimately, the Healing Center, in an effort to fulfill its stated mission, will work as hard for the economic revitalization of the neighborhood as it will to protect the economic interests of everyone in the neighborhood. And that means homeowners and renters as well as local businesses.
6.) Pres Kabacoff’s investment in the St. Claude community
The New Orleans Healing Center is not a quick-turnaround real estate scheme that speculative developers and investors are flocking to. Rather, it is a personal and long-term investment in the community that will pay its most important dividends to those living there. Pres Kabacoff has reinvested his developer fees to The New Orleans Healing Center to serve as a source of funds for the project. To date, he has also used his professional contacts and development acumen to secure thousands of dollars’ worth of advice, expertise, goods, and services on behalf of the healing center.
Furthermore, it is anticipated that the project will take years to have a positive cash flow…and as mentioned above, any profits may be reinvested in the center and its programs.
Finally, the building cannot be sold for 7 years. If anyone feels a need to discuss the subject further, they should contact Mr. Kabacoff directly, at 669-5613.
7.) Healing Center assistance for the economically distressed
The Healing Center’s founders were primarily concerned about people, neighborhoods, communities…and healing. As opposed to developing the project in a more affluent area, where it would certainly have been easier to get more (and larger) investors, serve a geographically wealthier clientele, which in turn could result in a quicker return on the investment, a more challenging location was chosen, where we could do the most good. That’s why we are called a “Healing Center.” And that’s why the businesses associated with the Healing Center are carefully screened and chosen in order to provide a product or service that can genuinely help the residents of the neighborhoods we serve.
We are committed to helping, healing, and serving ALL people, no matter what their economic situation. To that end, we are also working with a non-profit foundation, whose purpose will be to help subsidize the services, products and programs offered by the businesses within the Healing Center for those who could not otherwise afford them.
8.) Healing Center community outreach
Our community outreach efforts to date have sought out advice, participation, and support and have been ongoing, area-wide, and quite substantial. Furthermore, they have been collaborative, cooperative, and consensus-driven and have been geared to both the individual as well as the community. For example,
- Two of the Healing Center’s Board Members are selected from among community leaders from both the Lakeside and the Riverside areas of St. Claude.
- The Lakeside and the Riverside Board Members also serve as co-chairs of the Outreach committee for the NOHC.
- We have done, and continue to do, numerous presentations at neighborhood organization meetings, at churches, and at other community gatherings, such as The Bywater Neighborhood Association, The Porch, The Faubourg-Marigny Association, The St Roch/St Claude Neighborhood Association, and many others.
- We have done a door-to-door survey to approximately 400 households on the Lakeside of St. Claude to ask about what services people would like to have at the center; what concerns they might have; etc. What’s more, we are currently gearing up to do another similar survey prior to the opening of the Healing Center as well as ongoing surveys in the future to help monitor what the neighborhoods need and want.
- As part of our goal of helping to bring neighborhoods together and letting all of New Orleans know about what we are doing here in the St. Claude neighborhood, we held a very successful Open House. Additionally, we will be sponsoring a number of similar events with opportunities for all attendees to get acquainted, ask questions, and find out specifically what services and programs will be of particular interest to them.
- We have held special open-to-the-public events and festivals for the past 4 years, including our annual Halloween Festival, Anba Dlo.
- We provide information, answer questions, and hand out flyers at neighborhood festivals and events.
- We have had a website for the last 4 ½ years (www.neworleanshealingcenter.org).
- We have held gatherings of faith and spiritual leaders, attended by over 60 participants, representing 18 religions.
- We are holding “meet and greet” events that are targeted towards special interest groups (example: artists, musicians, etc.) as well as the general public, so that everyone can have an opportunity to visit the facility, learn about the Center, see how it is progressing, and discover what might be of interest to them.
We are also consulting with community leaders to identify minority small business owners, who may want to develop businesses within the Healing Center.
9.) The Healing Center’s relevance to community needs
Our surveys have indicated that 76% of the African American community on the Lakeside of St Claude has used complimentary and alternative forms of healing. This surprisingly high number is probably due to the fact that medical doctors are too expensive and many of these residents may be without any – or adequate – medical insurance. But, regardless of how this statistic came to be, clearly these people have had some positive experience with complementary methods of medical treatment and would be likely to use them again, if affordable, and if given the opportunity.
Conclusion: Many of the residents of the neighborhoods we will be serving are already knowledgeable about the benefits of such healing modalities; and we are happy that we will be able to provide more healthcare options to these communities as a more affordable and accessible way of taking care of one’s health.
Also note: 97% said they wanted to buy food at the New Orleans Food Co-op grocery. In fact, 95% of those surveyed said that the Healing Center met the needs of the community.
Furthermore, since the guiding principle of The Healing Center is to help and heal the surrounding neighborhoods, the business tenants within the Healing Center are chosen to fill exactly those needs. Specifically, all of the center’s businesses are selected based on their ability to:
- Fill the needs of the community.
- Meet one or more of the principles of sustainability.
- Complement and work synergistically with the other businesses.
Good health is vital to everyone, regardless of economic level. Often something as simple as timely nutritional information may be able to turn around a chronic, debilitating disease. To that end, our partnering with a non-profit entity will provide subsidies for those who are economically distressed and will help to ensure that everyone who needs it, will have access to life-enhancing programs, information, products, and services.
10.) Alcohol in the Healing Center
The Healing Center wants to be relevant to everyone in the community. And to do that, we have to reach out to and meet people on a number of different levels. People do not have to be “perfect” to participate in healing; nor does healing necessarily involve total self-denial or boring lifestyles. We want to support New Orleans’ rich culture and festive lifestyle by including a place where people of all traditions can meet and learn about each other in a relaxed, peaceful, congenial, and safe environment. FACT: People in New Orleans DRINK and party. But they can do so in moderation and still be healthy and productive. The Cafe Istanbul brand is associated with great, local, entertainment; a sophisticated and extremely diverse crowd; and no violence!
11.) Healing Center businesses and community service
To repeat, the New Orleans Healing Center really is about healing. To that end, all of the businesses within the NOHC must sign onto our Credo, which ensures that there is a strong element of social responsibility and entrepreneurship involved with all the NOHC’s tenants. Specifically:
- All businesses housed within the Center must contribute to healing on some level and must all work together to enhance the positive healing effect of the whole.
- All must balance a spiritual bottom line with a financial bottom line.
- All must contribute to the well being of the community and must maintain respect for the diverse culture and traditions of the community.
- All must be good neighbors.
What’s more, to ensure that these important standards are met and maintained, all businesses within the center are approved and monitored by our 9-member board, which includes a number of local neighborhood/community representatives.
12.) Healing Center spiritual diversity
Even though one of the principal participants in the Healing Center is a Haitian-ordained priestess of the Vodou religion (the authentic and deeply spiritual version – not the Hollywood/tourist stereotype of a hexing cult), the Healing Center is not associated with ANY religion but welcomes people of all faiths, spiritualities, and beliefs. In fact, our Interfaith Center is distinctly non-denominational. It is a starkly simple and plain room, containing only light and silence, so people may reflect or meditate in their own fashion…or just simply retreat from the hectic world for a few quiet moments.
13.) New Orleans Healing Center traffic and parking
There will be approximately 75 parking spaces available in the rear parking lot of the Healing Center, in addition to plenty of on-street parking. We would like to think that some of the increased traffic around the Healing Center might also be first-time visitors to the neighborhood who might also patronize (possibly for the very first time) some of the local area shops and businesses.
Ultimately, if parking should become a problem in the future, then, in keeping with our stated goals of community outreach and healing, we will work with the neighborhood to help solve it.