Ronald McDonald House costs rise

The cost of building a Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte has increased 35 percent to $13.5 million since plans for the project were announced two years ago.

But the effort is progressing despite higher cost of materials and an uncertain economy, said Mona Johnson-Gibson, executive director of Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte Inc.

The organization hopes to launch a capital campaign later this year, start construction by early 2009 and open the facility in the 1600 block of East Morehead Street in 2010.

The roughly 35,000-square- foot house would provide about 30 suites as a home away from home for families of seriously ill children seeking medical care.

The site was crucial. Opening a Ronald McDonald House between Levine Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center and Presbyterian Healthcare's Hemby Children's hospital makes Charlotte a destination for children's medical care, Johnson-Gibson said.

The land – slightly more than 1 acre – has been rezoned and now holds two houses that soon will be demolished.

Even though costs are up from two years ago, Johnson-Gibson said the organization was able to get a slight break on steel by ordering in advance.

The Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte board is responsible for design, construction and operation.

While McDonald's Corp., its franchisees, employees and suppliers support and participate, local boards are separate public charities that raise most of their money from individuals and corporations in the communities they serve.

Johnson-Gibson said more than 200 volunteers have signed up to help with the Charlotte house (www.rmhof and businesses have offered their services.

Little Diversified Architectural Consulting and J.F. Schultze Construction Inc., for example, have pledged their design and construction services as in-kind contributions.

Charlotte's 131 Main restaurant signed on as a corporate sponsor and will help organizers raise public awareness, said principal Joe Douglas.

Johnson-Gibson said the Carolina Panthers' Muhsin Muhammad also is helping, along with many individuals “who are hearing about the house and sending us money.”