Street view of the Better Family Life Cultural Center and Museum

5415 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63112-3146
United States


This site includes a 1904 historic landmark elementary school building and two adjacent properties in a mixed residential/ commercial neighborhood in St. Louis. The department's Brownfields/ Voluntary Cleanup Program (BVCP) staff provided remediation oversight for asbestos-containing material and lead-based paint. The building was transformed into the Better Family Life Cultural, Educational and Business Center.


The site is 1.54 acres located approximately one mile north of Forest Park in a mixed residential/commercial neighborhood. The site is comprised of three separate parcels. The main building, formerly known as the Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School, is a three-story brick structure with an attic, basement and gymnasium. The school was originally built in 1904 and operated until 2000. The other two parcels contained a parking lot, a playground, a large lawn and landscaped area. Better Family Life Inc. purchased the property from the St. Louis Board of Education in 2005.   

Environmental Issues and Cleanup Process

The site was enrolled in the department's Voluntary Cleanup Program to remediate asbestos-containing material and lead-based paint. The department's BVCP staff provided oversight for the cleanup and redevelopment. The asbestos-containing material consisted of approximately 7 linear feet of pipe insulation and mudded fittings, 20 square feet of boiler insulation, 500 square feet of duct wrap, 16,250 square feet of ceiling tile, 7 fire doors and asbestos-containing caulk and glazing from 172 windows and 4 doors. The asbestos-containing material was removed and properly disposed of off-site. All painted surfaces within the building were assumed to contain lead-based paint for the purposes of renovation. The paint was scrapped flush to the substrate and stabilized. The cleanup process also included collecting and disposing of fluorescent bulbs, cleaning solvents and copier fluids. 

Funding Sources

  • Brownfield Redevelopment Program Tax Credits

This redevelopment supports an educational and cultural resource center and includes spaces for cultural events, meeting rooms, offices, work force initiatives and a museum. The 60,000 square foot Better Family Life Cultural, Educational and Business Center is listed on both the Missouri State and National Registry of Historic Landmarks. Designed and built by world renowned architect William B. Ittner, the center complements the existing local and historic architecture. Redevelopment is currently taking place in the surrounding neighborhoods. The center will serve as the national headquarters for Better Family Life operations. The center will also provide a one-stop shop for cultural and artistic learning, provide a myriad of needed social services, create and spawn new business development and entrepreneurial opportunities, as well as promote community and resident engagement.

Project Partners

  • BVCP Project Managers 
  • Better Family Life Inc.
  • Professional Environmental Engineers Inc.
Environmental and Economic Benefits

Each year, the Better Family Life Cultural, Educational and Business Center serves more than 50,000 low-income children and adults, including the underemployed, unemployed and skill-deficient. A variety of programs are offered, including economic, housing, workforce development, educational, youth, social, cultural and artistic. Their efforts provide numerous individuals and families with the resources they need to reclaim their place in the “mainstream" and contribute to the forward development of their families and community.

Institutional Controls

The location and maintenance of remaining contaminants is detailed in an operation and maintenance plan, filed in the property's chain of title on Nov. 11, 2013, with the Recorder of Deeds for the City of St. Louis.


BVCP Project Identification

  • SMARS #11880

Assurances Received

  • June 12, 2008 - Letter of Agreement Received
  • Dec. 18, 2013 - Certificate of Completion Issued

Contact Information