The Rose Collaborative: Revitalizing St. Rose de Lima's Buildings

09:29 November 01, 2018
By: Cassandra Damascus

Renovations of the St. Rose de Lima campus (which includes a church and two school buildings, vacant since Hurricane Katrina) will regenerate the oldest road in New Orleans: Bayou Road. This 300-year-old road was first used by the Native Americans, followed by the Europeans, as a way for travelers to avoid the Mississippi River when the water level was low. The location of this raised land is credited for founding New Orleans as we know it. Today, Bayou Road connects several New Orleans neighborhoods and is bustling with shops, restaurants, and many historical landmarks.

With these new enterprises, Bayou Road’s popularity has been on the rise. Adding to the redevelopment is The Rose Collaborative, a revitalization of the St. Rose de Lima campus into a co-working space and community business incubator, a pre-K to eighth-grade school, and a performing arts hub. Alembic Community Development and Rose Community Development Corporation partnered to give new life to the St. Rose de Lima campus, while keeping the community, especially the Treme and the 7th ward, as a top priority. 

The Rose Collaborative: Revitalizing St. Rose de Lima's Buildings

The shared office space and community business incubator are located in Parish Hall, one of the two revamped school buildings. The space will provide a community business incubator operated by Fund 17, as well as KID smART, a nonprofit arts education program. Other nonprofits and business tenants will also operate from Parish Hall. Fund 17, the nonprofit commencing the Community Business Incubator, has identified the obstacle of economic inequality in New Orleans and is “fighting opportunity inequality in the 17 wards of New Orleans.” At Parish Hall, resources will be provided to entrepreneurs through mentorship, technology, and learning. The skills and resources Fund 17 and its participants provide will convert “profitable hobbies” and business ideas into sustainable livelihoods. To connect with Fund 17, email [email protected].

Taking over the long-established St. Rose de Lima Church is New Orleans’s top nonprofit professional theater, Southern Rep Theatre. Boasting community performance opportunities around the clock, the converted church is breathtaking. The majestic cathedral now features elevated catwalks hovering above classic stages while supporting the historic and spiritual integrity of the building. One of the stages will be outdoors, accessible by utilizing the monumental church entrance and its stairs. Aimee Hayes, Producing Artistic Director of Southern Rep, commented, “Southern Rep will provide a plethora of programming that suits people of all ages. It includes classes, theater experiences, dialogue, conversations, music, and celebration.” The first performance is slated for October.

Hayes describes the programming as “a venue for entertainers in hopes of having something every night of the week.” Youth On Stage NOLA, which is a free after-school theater program, will meet twice a week at the church-turned-venue. Additionally, the venue will host a “care for creatives” program, partnering with a musicians’ clinic to support mental health, and it will provide discussion and therapy opportunities for members of the community.

Occupying the second school building is the Waldorf School. With grand classrooms, floor-to-ceiling windows, and preserved architecture, the antiquated atmosphere of the building is an appropriate fit for a school founded in the early 1900s. Currently located in two separate locations Uptown, The Waldorf School of New Orleans will open for the 2019-20 school year at St. Rose. Waldorf has a unique pedagogy, which focuses on aligning education with the child’s development through preserving the child’s “fantasy stage”; this means there is a larger focus on the arts and handwork until the child reaches the development stage of academic learning. The philosophy also means they do not administer common core testing. Business Administrator Lisa Lynde says she is “looking forward to being part of the St. Rose, 7th Ward, and Treme neighborhood. It is a big step for us because we’ve been under the radar in a lot of ways, so this is a very exciting time for the school.” Lynde continued to explain the strong financial aid program that Waldorf will provide, with 40 to 50 percent of students and families receiving financial planning, and several annual scholarships reserved for neighborhood members. Notably, almost 100 percent of their students are accepted to the high school of their choice.

When asked to name the masterminds behind the project, Jonathan Leit, director of Alembic Community Development’s New Orleans office, explained, “With support from many other community members, Hal Brown, an experienced developer with deep family roots in the 7th Ward, founded Rose Community Development Corporation in 2010 and secured site control of the St. Rose properties. Hal pursued a range of partnerships, including ones with Southern Rep Theatre, a charter school, and NewCorp, to operate the buildings and bring community-serving programming. Sadly, Hal passed away in 2013, but his widow, Shawn Kennedy, and several other Rose Community Development Corporation board members kept the project going and continue to be stewards of the original vision and mission.” If you want to get involved or learn more, visit or contact Sanaa Msemajj at [email protected]

The community is eagerly awaiting the diverse programming that will be offered this fall and is thankful for the efforts to bring The Rose Collaborative to fruition. Until they kick it off, visit The Half Shell On The Bayou, Ego’s Gentlemen’s Spa, Club Caribbean, or Community Book Center, all located along Bayou Road. 

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