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Blighted Lot Turned Into Kid-Friendly
Learning Center

By Michael Miyamoto, LC/DBM


Palmisano Contractors, New Orleans, spearheaded a project to convert a blighted lot into a productive and useful learning environment for underprivileged children. The project was completed, pro bono, on behalf of a nonprofit called PlayBuild NOLA. Photo: Laura Mullin


Mullin Landscape Associates, also of New Orleans, accepted an invitation to help construct the nonprofit's most recent learning center, and also provided its services free of charge. About a dozen other firms and organizations contributed pro bono work toward this community service project as well. Photo: Jeff Johnston

A contractor, a design-build firm and about a dozen other companies and organizations, all in the greater New Orleans area, collaborated on a pro bono project and transformed an underutilized urban property into a kid-friendly space for a charitable organization called PlayBuild NOLA.

The nonprofit helps children learn about architecture and design "one plot at a time," its website says. It converts available spaces into architecturally themed playgrounds for kids between the ages of 4-12, and one of its goals is to turn blighted properties into educational centers that benefit local neighborhoods, not to mention the people who live in them.

Another goal is to engage underserved youth by stimulating their curiosity through creativity and active learning.

The nonprofit was started in 2013 and has reached over 2,400 kids through school and community partnerships.

The major players were Palmisano Contractors, a contracting and construction firm, and Mullin Landscape Associates, a landscape architecture, installation, construction and maintenance company. The former basically acted as the general contractor, and asked the latter to be sort of a subcontractor. Employees from both companies volunteered to build the new facility. Several other firms were also involved in the pro bono project.

Some elements already on the site were put to good use. For instance, old car tires were turned into raised planters. The builders also installed ornamental and native plantings, and new sod for the children to play on.

The workers constructed a classroom that neighborhood charter schools use for after-school lessons. The site also includes an outdoor garden and a play space that the nonprofit uses for building- and construction-related play activities, utilizing giant foam blocks and other learning toys. Design-themed arts and crafts activities take place at the facility as well.

The nonprofit's newest addition was built in a section of New Orleans called Central City. "It added a six-figure investment to the community," the nonprofit said on its website. Schoolchildren use the facility on weekends, too.

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, January 2017.

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October 17, 2019, 6:59 am PDT

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