Achieving sustainable social change is critical to eliminating poverty, homelessness and underemployment. We're taking deliberate steps to encourage diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization, communities and our industry to affect this change.
Recently, we collaborated with other organizations that share our desire to affect change – Creative Planning and Pathway Financial Education.
Creative Planning is an independent financial advisor based in Overland Park, Kan. The company has dedicated $12 million to address racial justice, financial literacy and education.
Peter Mallouk, President and CEO of Creative Planning, recently founded Pathway Financial Education (Pathway), a 501(c)3 organization. Pathway provides free financial education to teenagers, adults and business owners in underserved communities. With guiding principles of diversity, inclusion, equity and access, Pathway offers programs like financial planning and tax management for individuals and business entity formation and planning for small businesses.
A few years ago, Opus associates from our Kansas City office crossed paths with Vince Clark, a board member at Pathway and Vice President of Business Development at Creative Planning.
“We have a long-standing tradition at Opus of lending our time and expertise to our communities," said Devon Coffey, Senior Manager of Real Estate Development. “Having met Vince, it was clear that Pathway's guiding principles aligned with our giving profile and desire to affect racial equity and inclusion."
When Creative Planning founded Pathway last year, they reached out to us.
It was the beginning of a multi-organization philanthropic collaboration to design and build a state-of-the-art financial education and training center for Pathway.
New Home, New Beginnings
Pathway's new headquarters is in the 18th and Vine District, a historic jazz district in Kansas City. An economically-depressed area and a historical hub for Black-owned businesses, it's a perfect location to support Pathway's mission of providing education access to diverse populations.
We donated our architectural and design services for the new headquarters. Construction was donated by JE Dunn Construction and financial support came from Creative Planning and BlackRock, a large New York-based asset management company.
A space on the first floor of an existing mixed-use multi-story building became Pathway's headquarters. The 3,263-square-foot space includes a 1,300-square-foot training room that accommodates 50 students, offices, a conference room and a break room.
Gary Schuberth, Vice President, was the architect of record. He approached the project the same way he does any project.
“We start at 5,000 feet with the client and talk big picture," said Gary. “We ask a lot of questions about what they want to achieve in the space and how they envision it functioning."
“Parallel to that, we ask how the finished space should look and feel - essentially, the vibe they want people to feel when entering the space. To help them visualize, we show them images. I also ask clients for three adjectives to describe the space. Pathway gave me five – sophisticated, professional, successful, modern and best-in-class."
And that's exactly what the new Pathway headquarters and training center conveys.
“Working on this project was an honor," said Gary. “It's hugely rewarding to be part of something so positive. 18th & Vine is an underserved area with great potential, so the city is investing time and money to redevelop it. It's a perfect location for Pathway to carry out its mission and boost the vitality of underrepresented community members."
Mentoring Aspiring Design Students
Throughout the project, Oscar Healy, Regional Vice President of Construction, and Devon Coffey also contributed expertise.
“All of this was wonderful, but we wanted to do more," Oscar said. “I had recently volunteered as a judge for a high school design competition sponsored by Operation Breakthrough, a non-profit and longtime Opus Foundation® grant recipient. We thought, why don't we give them a real-world, hands-on experience with the Pathway project?"
Three high school students from diverse backgrounds were mentored by team members from Opus and JE Dunn throughout the project. They shadowed on the design and construction side, visited the site and attended pre-construction and weekly site meetings when school schedules allowed.
“The experience was invaluable for these aspiring students," said Oscar. “They were super engaged and wanted to learn. They had done some design in school, but this was the real thing."
“They asked great questions," said Gary. “I talked to them about the design process and the many steps involved. I showed them permit drawings and how they compare to the finished project. I think the experience helped connect a lot of dots for them."
“The three young students were genuinely interested in the work and learning everything they could," said Devon. “Having them involved in the project was rewarding for us too in many ways."
The Pathway Financial Education building was completed in April 2021.