City gives new life to GR youth center

January 4, 2011
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Grand Rapids city commissioners recently amended an agreement they made with the Concerned Citizens Council two years ago, and now plans for a proposed youth development center in Martin Luther King Jr. Park can go forward.

The council, a coalition of religious and civic leaders and business people, wants to build a 35,000-square-foot center in the city-owned park at the corner of Fuller and Franklin SE. The center would offer the neighborhood’s young people after-school educational opportunities, wellness services, asset-building classes, job readiness insights, cultural-enrichment programs and recreational activities.

The CCC entered into the original agreement with the city in November 2008, but failed to meet the contract’s deadlines to raise the necessary funds, build the center and establish an endowment for its operations. The action taken by commissioners at their last meeting gave the council new target dates to meet the contract’s requirements.

Now the council has to finalize its fundraising campaign to pay for the center’s construction, operation and the endowment by April 30. Then it will need to raise those dollars and deposit $250,000 into a trust fund toward a $1 million endowment by Dec. 31, 2012. Construction must be completed by April 30, 2014, and the remaining $750,000 of the endowment must be deposited by Dec. 31, 2015.

CCC President Don Williams Sr., also dean emeritus at Grand Valley State University, said it will take about $7.5 million to construct the building. He also said the council has an unidentified major donor in place, and raising the remaining money could be a tough task considering the current economy.

Williams said the coalition had difficulty raising money for the project earlier because it was trying to do so when the Salvation Army’s Kroc Corps Community Center was making a big splash in the news. He said it was complicated to explain to potential donors how the proposed center would differ from that one. Now that the Kroc Center has opened for all age groups, Williams felt it will be easier to raise the money, as the council’s center will have a specific target market. “It’s like a one-stop center for youth ages 10 to 18,” he said.

Williams said once the building is finished, the CCC will sell it to the city for $1. In return, the city will give the council a 50-year lease on the building for $1 a year. Williams added that Arbor Circle, Spectrum Health and the YMCA will have a presence in the building, and Grand Rapids Boxing will remain at the location.

Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong said the next step in the process will be to write a lease agreement with the council.

The CCC was founded in 1986 with the intended purpose of building a youth center in the inner-city neighborhood. Approximately 25 individuals belong to the council.

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