Better Family Life Cultural Center and Museum Exterior and Yard

Historical Renovation Creates Consolidated Cultural Center

Cultural, Educational and Business Center
Better Family Life, Inc.
St. Louis, MO

Better Family Life (BFL) is a not-for-profit community development organization that works to stabilize urban neighborhoods through programs and community outreach to disadvantaged groups. In 2005, the organization and its 100 employees were operating out of six locations throughout the St. Louis area, without a central hub or space for permanent programming. BFL identified the abandoned former Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School building on the north side of St. Louis as an ideal building and location to host its activities and house a permanent Cultural Center. The 100-year-old school was designed by world-renowned architect William B. Ittner and listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. KAI was engaged to conduct a facility assessment to examine viability and costs of purchasing and renovating the school, and it was determined that the project would fit within the owner’s budget.

Design-Build work then began, with a beautiful renovation that created classrooms, two art galleries, a grand lobby, meeting rooms, dance studios, a computer lab, assembly space and offices. The classrooms are used to provide job training, GED classes and motivational training, while gallery and studio space celebrates the history, art, culture and dance of peoples of Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas.


Facility Assessment, Construction Services, General Contracting, Cost Estimating, Design-Build, Plumbing Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Architecture

The Impact

Building Stable and Healthy Communities

Better Family Life serves to strengthen families which comprise the foundation of stable and healthy communities. To that end, they provide a wide variety of programs for youth and family, including enabling first-time home buyers to purchase affordable housing, helping chronically unemployed residents find meaningful full-time employment, and facilitating pathways for the de-escalation of conflicts that could lead to gun violence and death. They work to stabilize inner city neighborhoods and break the cycle of poverty.

β€œThe center uniquely creates a holistic model of Better Family Life by merging culture – the core of our values; education – the process through which we learn and grow; and business – the resources and services we need to be self-sufficient."

Charlotte Ottley, Board Chairperson
Better Family Life