By Kevin Collison
Construction is expected to begin this September on what’s being described as the nation’s first licensed day care center for children with weakened immune systems in a rent-free building near Hospital Hill.
The RJ Children’s Haven project at 2924 Cherry St. has been in the works for two years, and developers and donors are seeking the final piece of financing assistance this week, a tax abatement from the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority.
“The project is unique in that a large majority of the professional and construction services are being donated to RJ Children’s Haven,” according to incentive request filed with the PIEA.
The construction manager of the project, 3-D Development, is seeking a 15-year property tax abatement, 10 years at 100 percent and five years at 50 percent, as well as a sales tax exemption on construction materials from the PIEA.
The renovation cost is estimated at $600,000, according to the PIEA application. Work is expected to begin this fall with an opening planned for late August 2021.
When completed, the 3,800 square-foot former warehouse building will be offered as a rent-free home for RJ Children’s Haven.
The facility will provide a safe place for up to 30 children with weakened immune systems.
Karen Anthony, executive director, said the importance of protecting kids diagnosed with diseases that can damage their immune systems, including cancer, genetic disorders and transplants, has been highlighted by the current Covid-19 pandemic.
“Everything we are going through as a country and the world is what these children go through after being diagnosed,” she said. “They have to go into an isolation state and period of cleanliness.”
RJ Children’s Haven will have an onsite certified daycare director, an experienced pediatric nurse and other trained staff as needed. The facility is close to Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Truman Medical Center.
An additional benefit will be providing parents with a safe place to bring their children. Oftentimes, parents of children with immune-suppressing illnesses must give up their jobs to stay home with their child, according to backers.
To assure the children are safe, plans call for the new RJ Children’s Haven to have a special heating, cooling and ventilation system to remove dangerous airborne spores and contaminants. Children, staff and visitors also will have to remove their shoes upon entry.
The Children’s Haven benefactors in obtaining the property include Vince Bryant of 3-D Development, Suzie Aron and Joseph Levin, John and Sharon Hoffman, and Frank and Ann Uryasz.
Anthony estimated the total renovation cost for the project at $1.6 million.
Ironically, she said supporters had hoped to hold a party March 12 to celebrate the preparation of construction, but had to call it off when the medical director developed a cough.
“We were fearful to put people in the room,” Anthony said.
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