Inside the new Exceptional Foundation building

EFDAYROOM

The sunny Big Room, facing west, is used for daily after-school programs for members ages 5-21.

The Exceptional Foundation a few weeks ago moved into an expanded facility built ahead of schedule on a strong response to its $4 million capital campaign. The building expansion along with growing participation and construction inconveniences put the Foundation at odds over parking with its neighbor, the Homewood Rec Center, which had also expanded its building the year before.

The Exceptional Foundation is seeking to expand into the adjacent residential area.

The Exceptional Foundation as seen in a January 2014 Google screen shot. The expansion took down two houses, seen at the left.

The Foundation, which also enjoys an exceptional $40,000/year support from its landlord, the city, presented its expansion idea to the Planning Commission in January 2013. At that time, it planned to add a 7,500-square-foot addition with 16 parking spaces and an additional entrance from Oxmoor Road to offer more space for its 470 clients. The agency had already contracted to buy two neighboring houses contingent on rezoning the lots from Neighborhood Preservation District to I-2 Institutional.

The commission voted 6-1 to recommend, which the council ultimately approved–also with one dissent, but without the Oxmoor entrance.

The yellow segment shows the approximate size of the proposed Exceptional Foundation addition. The agency's architect has repeatedly said the expansion would "square up" the recreational activity area.

The yellow segment shows the approximate size of the proposed Exceptional Foundation addition.

Trouble between the Foundation and park board erupted in October 2014, when the Foundation announced plans to begin construction immediately and to build a basement that would double the square footage and temporarily take a dozen parking spaces for excavated dirt and staging. The park board reacted angrily, saying it had been blindsided and calling the expedited schedule “irresponsible.”

The Foundation, meanwhile, has kept a low political profile, moving forward to completion, submitting for park board approval any activity using additional parking, and accepting several denials–including an annual Dance Marathon fundraiser on its behalf that has been rescheduled twice. Foundation leaders say they kept quiet last year when city leaders threatened to slash public transit funding, on which many special needs clients rely.

Board member Carmine Jordan said she has worked to improve relations with the park board and public. Foundation director Tricia Kirk says the Foundation has been blessed with increased support and in approaching its fundraising goal so quickly. The new basement–which is destined to be a game room–was added at no extra charge by contractor Brasfield Gorie. It increased program area without expanding the building’s footprint.

Here’s an inside look at the facility that shares space and an uneasy peace with the park board and management of the Homewood park and recreation center.

Close neighbors--The turnaround in front of the Exceptional Foundation with the Homewood Rec Center in the background.

Close neighbors–The turnaround in front of the Exceptional Foundation with the Homewood Rec Center in the background.

EFVAN

A patio facing Oxmoor overlooks a lawn and drop-off turnaround. The Foundation operates three shuttles for clients.

EFOFFICE

Foundation director Tricia Kirk and board member Carmine Jordan are in the new office space for staff and checking participants in and out throughout the day.

EFKITCHEN

A brightly colored kitchen for snacks–and also to wash and dry extra clothing.

EFOLDGYM

The surprisingly spacious “old” gym is used daily and for monthly dances and weekend sports.

EFBASEMENT

The basement space, to be called The Cave, will be a game room. The space was added by contractor Brasfield Gorie at no extra charge.

EFLOCKERS

Program participant lockers. The Exceptional Foundation is really the only option in town for special needs individuals after school or after school age (age 21). The agency provides supervised programs, day camps, after-school services and a social and recreation outlet for nearly 500 special needs individuals in the area.

EFWINDOW

A view from the stair landing between two multi-purpose rooms.

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