The Michaels Organization Educational Foundation Announces Major Gift

Share Article

Resident Scholarship Program Receives Largest Single Private Donation in its History from Torti Gallas and Partners

New Orleans affordable housing

The Estates at New Desire, Michaels' HOPE VI Development in the ninth ward, developed in partnership with the Housing Authority of New Orleans

We hope this contribution benefits the families of New Desire and their quest for higher learning for generations to come --Tom Gallas, CEO, Torti Gallas and Partners.

The Michaels Educational Foundation announced today that it has received the largest private donation in its 22-year history. The nationally renowned architecture and planning firm of Torti Gallas and Partners contributed $38,000 to the educational foundation’s scholarship program to benefit the residents of The Estates at New Desire, a multi-phase, 425-unit HOPE VI community located in the upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans, LA.

“We are extremely grateful to Torti Gallas and Partners for their generosity and their commitment to improving the lives of our New Orleans residents by providing such tremendous support for their higher education through our Educational Foundation,” said John O’Donnell, chief operating officer of The Michaels Organization, a family of companies dedicated to excellence in affordable, mixed-income, military and student housing.

The nation’s leading affordable housing owner and developer, The Michaels Organization established the Educational Foundation as a non-profit affiliate in 1991, and since then the Foundation has provided $2.8 million in educational grants to residents of Michaels-owned and managed properties.

All funds for the education grants are privately raised and are matched two-for-one by Michaels’ Founder and CEO, Michael J. Levitt and his wife Patricia Levitt.

Torti Gallas, Desire’s architect of record, master planned and redesigned the 97-acre site beginning in 2000. By 2005, two of its then three phases were completed when Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

Seeking to offer Desire residents a hand up, Torti Gallas employees pooled their own personal funds, with a matching contribution from the firm, to assist residents in their recovery effort as they simultaneously went back to work helping the developer, The Michaels Development Company and the Housing Authority of New Orleans, to get the site up and running and bring residents back home. Units in Phases I and II were completed in 2007, with its first residents returning on August 29 of that same year. In 2008, The Estates at New Desire earned the prestigious Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Award for Excellence.

“Torti Gallas' employees were deeply impacted by the devastating effects of Katrina, especially the destruction that occurred at the Estates of New Desire. After careful thought and discussion the firm as a whole decided that we would assist the residents of New Desire in starting over. We hope that this contribution benefits the families of New Desire and their quest for higher learning for generations to come,” said Tom Gallas, chief executive officer of Torti Gallas and Partners.

Torti Gallas’ donation will be earmarked specifically for Desire residents living at the Abundance Square, Savoy Place, and Treasure Village communities. High school graduates as well as non-traditional and returning students are eligible and encouraged to apply for the program each year.

Scholarships range from $500 to $3,000 and can be used at any accredited college, university, or vocational training program in the country. Recipients can reapply for funds each year of their education. Torti Gallas’ gift will fund scholarships beginning with the 2012-2013 school year that starts in the fall.

About The Michaels Organization
In 1991, The Michaels Organization’s flagship companies, The Michaels Development Company and Interstate Realty Management Company, became the first companies in the affordable housing industry to offer educational scholarships to their low-income residents. Since that time, the scholarship program, which is administered through the non-profit affiliate, The Michaels Organization Educational Foundation, has funded more than $2.8 million in scholarships, benefitting more than 1,300 students. Educational grants can be used toward higher education at any accredited college, university or vocational training program in the country. Visit

About Torti Gallas and Partners
Master planners and urban designers, Torti Gallas and Partners is a leading architectural firm serving both the residential and commercial real estate sectors. The firm specializes in creating neighborhoods and has particular expertise in revitalizing inner cities. Over the past decade, the award-winning firm has worked extensively with The Michaels Development Company all over the country, and was the master planner and architect for The Estates at New Desire. Visit

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Laura Zaner

Laurie Milligan Harrell
Follow us on
Visit website