Why Did the Weinberg Foundation Help Revamp the Imperial Hotel in Atlanta?

Earlier this year, the former Imperial Hotel of Atlanta reopened in a new guise as the Commons at Imperial, providing "permanent supportive housing" in a commuter-friendly spot.

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation was among the funders behind this project, and even though this is old news by now, it's worth pausing to consider some lessons from the episode. 

Competition for funding by Weinberg is stiff, with the foundation reporting it receives requests for funding that are five times the amount it has available to give. What made the Commons at Imperial a "yes" from Weinberg?

Well, for starters, the people who will benefit from this project are exactly the kinds of people that the Weinberg Foundation is dedicated to helping, with its mandate to help the financially disadvantaged. This grant was made specifically to create "90 units of low-income housing with services for formerly homeless older adults well as persons with disabilities."  

In addition, the foundation is required to spend half of all grant dollars every year on capital projects, so the Imperial was a great fit on that front, too. 

The foundation also looks for projects where at least 50 percent of the total capital for the project has already been raised from other community stakeholders. And in the case of the Imperial, many big stakeholders were already on board, including the State of Georgia, the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Housing Authority, Bank of America, Sugar Creek Investments and the Home Depot Foundation. Construction had already started on the project by the time the Weinberg Foundation kicked in a $500,00 grant in April 2013.

The apartments in the Imperial are optimized for energy efficiency and have individual controls for heating. Utilities are included in the residents' rent. There are also lots of on-site services with the special needs of residents in mind. These include physical therapy and health care services. There is also a fitness center, laundry room, library/community room, and resource center with a printer. The National Church Residences, the country's largest owner of subsidized housing for the elderly, owns the building and Columbia Residential will be managing it.