Youth Villages breaks ground on $22M expansion

Development work is underway on Bill’s Place, an ambitious $22 million expansion to Youth Villages existing campus in Bartlett, with completion slated for the spring of 2019. The private nonprofit organization assists more than 22,000 children and families each year in 13 states and Washington, D.C., including more than 1,100 kids per day in Shelby County.

“There’s going to be nothing else like this facility in this part of the country,” said Youth Villages chief development officer Richard Shaw, who explained that plans for the expansion grew tremendously from the original concept.

The nonprofit initially had plans to simply add a gymnasium and a pool for the campus’ Boys Center for Intensive Residential Treatment, which was established in 2000.

“What’s happened over the last several years is we’ve had a waiting list and an increased demand for young people who have both co-occurring medical and behavioral issues,” said Shaw. “That led us to go through the process of developing a business plan and casting a vision for what this facility expansion could mean to us helping those most vulnerable kids in this part of the country.”

The 100,000-square-foot addition will create a 148,000-square-foot center designed to enhance treatment options for the community’s most at-risk youth, addressing a gap in services for medically fragile children and the growing community need for intensive treatment options.

Plans call for the addition of 72 beds, doubling the campus’ bed total to 144 and allowing approximately 435 to 450 youth to be helped annually at the facility.

“We also have other young people we serve in the Memphis area who will also receive some services at Bill’s Place. There will be a dentistry area and some other areas where we’ll have kids from other programs who will be able to come and receive some services and also use some of the facilities as well because there are going to be a lot of unique facility enhancements in Bill’s Place,” said Shaw.

Features that will serve as a creative outlet and recreational therapy will include a theater and musical performance room with space for the existing therapeutic drumming program, a dedicated art room, as well as a gym, outdoor pool, exercise room and outside playground.

Bill's Place also will add 16 new classrooms and a modern computer lab, eight family counseling rooms, an expanded health station with additional nursing staff, on-site pediatricians, dentists and optometrists as well as physical and occupational therapy rooms, two sensory therapy rooms with leading-edge tactile equipment and a neuro-feedback therapy room.

“Our goal is to find each of the young people a forever family,” said Shaw. “Some of them have families intact, they just need this level of care on a temporary basis.”

Brg3s architectural firm created the designs for the project, and Linkus Construction is the general contractor.

Bill’s Place is dedicated to William “Bill” and Marjorie Lawler, the parents of current Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler. 

“Pat’s father grew up in an orphanage [from age 6 to 11] and had very bad experience there. That experience led him to put a premium on family with his own kids, and I think that really inspired and shaped Pat to do what he has done for his entire adult life, which is help kids,” said Shaw.

Youth Villages has raised $17 million of the necessary funding for the project, and Shaw hopes to complete fundraising in the next year.

The new facility will add approximately 150 new jobs by the time it opens.

Read more articles by Michael Waddell.

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian who returned to Memphis several years ago after working for nearly a decade in San Diego and St. Petersburg, Fla., as a writer, editor and graphic designer. His work over the past few years has been featured in The Memphis Daily News, Memphis Bioworks Magazine, Memphis Crossroads, the New York Daily News and the New York Post. Contact Michael.

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