Construction Begins on World’s Largest Ronald McDonald House – Increasing Access to Pediatric Health Care in Central Ohio July 20, 2022

In a Nutshell

What: Through a facility expansion currently underway that will nearly double its space, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is on track to have the largest Ronald McDonald House out of 380 locations worldwide – helping the organization increase the number of families served each year from 4,000 to 6,500. Leveraging New Markets Tax Credits to expedite the project, RMHC of Central Ohio’s expansion will help it keep pace with the growing capacity of local hospitals to serve pediatric patients.
Sectors: Community Development & Health Care
Location: Columbus, OH
Size: 230,000 square feet
Cost: $28 million
Sources of Funding/Financing: New Markets Tax Credits, capital campaign
IFF Support: $7 million federal New Markets Tax Credit allocation and $1 million Ohio New Markets Tax Credits (closed in March 2022)
IFF Staff Lead: Marina Titova, Managing Director – Structured Finance
Design: Meyers + Associates
General Contractor: Continental Building Company
Impact: During construction, the creation of 153 temporary jobs that will generate more than $10 million in wages for members of the community. Once the project is completed, the creation of 20 new FTE jobs and annual cost savings for families visiting RMHC of Central Ohio of $14.2 million. Additionally, an expansion in access to pediatric health care that will benefit 6,500 families annually.

For 40 years, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio (RMHC of Central Ohio) has provided a home away from home for tens of thousands of families, offering home-like accommodations and supportive services designed to ease the burden families face when a child is seriously ill. This summer, as the nonprofit marks the start of its fifth decade in operation, it’s also celebrating the commencement of a massive facility expansion that, once completed in early 2024, will result in the largest Ronald McDonald House of 380 worldwide locations.

The $28 million construction project, which broke ground in March after six years of planning, will expand the size of the nonprofit’s facility from 120,000 square feet to 230,000 square feet by adding 80 new guest rooms to the 122-room complex – increasing the number of families the organization can serve each year from 4,000 to 6,500 and creating new opportunities to support clients. Most importantly, the project will help RMHC of Central Ohio keep pace with population growth in the Columbus area and a similar facility expansion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which is located across the street. Nationwide Children’s Hospital provided the land necessary to accommodate RMHC of Central Ohio’s expansion project and has long partnered with the nonprofit to create a seamless support system for children and their families.

Open 365 days a year, RMHC of Central Ohio receives referrals from Nationwide Children’s and other local hospitals, providing families with private living quarters at no cost for as long as they need it. In addition to offering accommodations near the hospitals, families have access to fully equipped kitchens and dining areas with meal service, playrooms, laundry facilities, meditation and exercise rooms, and more. In certain cases, children receiving intensive outpatient care are also able to stay with their families at the Ronald McDonald House, enabling them to spend more time with their loved ones while also remaining steps away from hospital care.

Absent the House and services, families would be forced to pay out of pocket for lodging and meals; expenses that can easily exceed $100 per day. With approximately 70 percent of families served qualifying as low-income, those costs are not only a barrier for most families, but an obstacle to treatment itself.

“The most difficult situation we face right now is having to tell families that we don’t have the space for them,” says RMHC of Central Ohio CEO and Executive Director Dee Anders. “Families sometimes have to cancel appointments entirely if they can’t stay at the Ronald McDonald House. We’re going to be able to take care of everybody who needs us moving forward, and that’s huge.”

Families sometimes have to cancel appointments entirely if they can’t stay at the Ronald McDonald House. We’re going to be able to take care of everybody who needs us moving forward, and that’s huge.

In addition to adding guest rooms to the Ronald McDonald House to ensure more families benefit from its offerings, the project will add new community rooms, build a larger commercial kitchen and dining area, create new green space outdoors, and provide the nonprofit with new offices in one of the two new wings being added to the facility.

“The kitchen is often where our families hang out, socialize, and share meals, and that’s one of the reasons we’re expanding the space in our renovated facility,” says Anders. “It’s going to be a wonderful bright and open place with lots of glass that looks out on green space outside.”

After new construction is complete, the existing dining area will be converted to a 5,000-square-foot multipurpose room that will offer an interactive educational experience through a partnership with the Columbus Zoo.

“We’re going to be able to host many family members in the room, and it’s going to be a really special space,” says Anders. “It’ll highlight animals – which everyone loves – and hopefully provide a sense of calming for everyone who visits. Nobody’s excited to go the hospital, but what we always hear is that kids love coming to the Ronald McDonald House. We want to make our facility as fun as possible so that children have a great experience with us that they associate with getting treatment at the hospital.”

The expanded Ronald McDonald House will also help the nonprofit better leverage volunteers that it relies on to bolster the organization’s operations. Though the organization is an affiliate of Ronald McDonald House Charities, a national organization supported in part by the McDonald’s Corporation, RMHC of Central Ohio is an independent nonprofit largely responsible for raising its own funds and coordinating the local support necessary to operate. Volunteers are critical to the organization’s ability to do so, with volunteer teams performing maintenance work around the facility, preparing and serving meals to guests, and offering free massages and haircuts, among many other responsibilities.

“We have companies that bring groups of employees to volunteer with us, and lots of times they want to combine the volunteer experience with a meeting and team building activities,” says Anders. “We’ll have the space for them to do that now, in addition to being able to engage more volunteers overall. We have a ‘honey do’ list here just like most people have at home, only ours is exponentially longer because of the size of our facility. The volunteers who help us with that work are amazing.”

It’s incredible the amount of expertise you need to understand and leverage [New Markets Tax Credits] due to their complexity, but IFF was amazing to work with and really stepped up for us to make the project possible.

Just as RMHC of Central Ohio relies on volunteers to sustain its operations, it has relied on community support to bring its vision for the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House to fruition. Fueled by contributions from funders and donors concentrated in Central Ohio, the organization’s capital campaign has already raised $39.5 million of the $42 million required for construction and an endowment to support ongoing operations in the expanded facility. And by hiring a local architect – Meyers + Associates – and a local general contractor – Continental Building Company – to expand its facility, RMHC of Central Ohio ’s project will support the community in return. During construction, the project will create 153 temporary jobs. Once completed, the expanded facility will facilitate 20 new, permanent full-time jobs.

To help RMHC of Central Ohio expedite the project and more quickly expand access to pediatric health care in the region, IFF provided a $7 million federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) allocation and $1 million in Ohio NMTCs for the project – bridging a financing gap for the organization due to the timing of capital campaign contributions. Chase served as the equity investor for the federal and state NMTCs. Additional NMTC allocations for the project were provided by the Ohio Community Development Finance Fund and Chase CDE.

“We operate entirely on private donations and didn’t have experience with government funding, let alone New Markets Tax Credits,” says Anders. “It’s incredible the amount of expertise you need to understand and leverage them due to their complexity, but IFF was amazing to work with and really stepped up for us to make the project possible. Because of that, we’ll have this new community space that belongs to Central Ohio.”

Click here to read about additional community development projects in the Midwest facilitated by New Markets Tax Credits


Accommodations and More Through RMHC of Central Ohio

Though offering free accommodations and supportive services to the families of hospitalized children at its headquarters is the bread and butter of RMHC of Central Ohio, the nonprofit has also worked to expand its services beyond the walls of its facility. One of the ways it’s accomplished this is with the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a state-of-the-art clinic on wheels built specifically for delivering pediatric health care services to the surrounding community. The Care Mobile includes two patient examination rooms, a laboratory, and reception and medical records areas and is staffed by pediatric doctors and nurses from Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Focused on increasing access to health care among families with limited incomes, the Care Mobile provides services at little or no cost to the patient.

Another way RMHC of Central Ohio has reduced barriers to quality care for families is with two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms in Columbus; one at OhioHealth’s Riverside Methodist Hospital and the other at the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Meant to serve as a respite for families with children receiving care, the Family Rooms provide a convenient space to grab a snack and drink, take a shower, do a load of laundry, or simply to relax for a few minutes. The Family Rooms include gathering areas with comfortable seating and a television; a dining area with a kitchenette; complimentary laundry machines; children’s play area; multi-purpose spaces; complimentary snack food and coffee; an ADA accessible shower with toiletries and linens provided; and a workstation with technology.