When Councilmember Richard Conlin advocated for locating a community center in Belltown in 1998, this is the kind of response he heard, “Well, it may be a swell idea, but you’ll never site it.”
And indeed, as a result of his persistent efforts to get the proposed facility included in the 1999 Community Centers and Seattle Center Levy, voters approved $1.89 million for a Belltown Community Center.
It took another 11 years to find a site, but thanks to our Parks Department it is now very much open to the Belltown neighborhood. The day it opened – another sunny day in Belltown – Councilmember Licata and I joined neighbors inside the newest Community Center located at the southwest corner of 5th Ave and Bell St, 415 Bell Street (formerly Zum Gym) and toasted its success. Its wood floors gleam, the old bricks have been scrubbed, and big windows draw in the light. It feels perfect in Belltown.
The center is about 6000 square feet, and the City is leasing it for the next seven years with an option to renew. The Center includes a 24-hour Seattle Police Department drop-in desk where officers can meet neighbors, catch up on administrative demands, a conference room, and a Little Tot Room for playtime on rainy days.
Programs live now
The following classes began this week:
- Pre Ballet
- Tumbling Tots
- Me, My Parent, and Sportball
- Multi-sport Sportball
- Parents Night Out
- Noon Zumba
- Funk Aerobics
- Living through Divorce
Courses to come include Holiday Shopping Days, Meditation, perhaps a parent co-op preschool program and more. And maybe in the not too distant future we’ll see a public school in the neighborhood too!
The center officially opened to the public at the end of September. So far, class registrations are off to a slow start, so I encourage you to try the center out as soon as you can!
The staff is also very interested in hearing from you about what sort of programs you’d like, and also for ideas from instructors who might like to teach or lead sessions in the space.
If you have ideas or questions, contact Kerrie Stoops, the Center Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 206-684-7245.
Kerrie also notes that the center is gladly accepting donations: “We need donations of kitchen supplies (pots, pans, plates, silverware, etc.), paper and plastic food products (napkins, paper plates, plastic cutlery, etc.), office floor mats, and toys (ages 2 – 5) for our playroom.”
A long road
For Department of Parks and Recreation and the Belltown neighborhood, the path to getting this community center was a rocky one. Parks’ earlier attempts to site a community center in 2000, in collaboration with the Low Income Housing Institute’s (LIHI) Belltown View site, were unsuccessful.
Between 2001-2005, Parks conducted public meetings and investigated many locations in the Belltown neighborhood, but just couldn’t find spaces that met all the criteria identified by the public.
Things the community identified as important included the following:
- Proximity to Bell Street Park,
- An affordable 10-year lease,
- Accessibility for people with disabilities,
- An exclusive street entrance, and
- Moderate tenant improvement costs.
In 2010, Parks staff investigated 27 more sites in Belltown as possible lease space to accommodate the center.
The site at 5th and Bell meets all these goals and more.
There are two rooms with a 27-person capacity, and one room with a 128-person capacity available for booking.
To reserve a room for a group, contact the Belltown Community Center at (206) 684-7245, or stop by during the hours listed on their webpage.
Parks is currently working with potential partners to operate the facility and working on a mechanism by which community members to be involved in future operations and programming decisions related to the center.
Meanwhile, give them a like on Facebook to keep up with what’s going on.
Posted: October 4th, 2012 under Random