In a busy year of announcements for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield Inc., the nonprofit recently revealed plans to open a multimillion-dollar teen center along the Grant Avenue Parkway by 2024.
The Risdal Family Center for Great Futures, a planned three-story, 44,000-square-foot building, will be built at 810 W. Catalpa St. The facility will serve students 13 and up with workplace preparedness services and mental health resources, according to officials.
“This is an exciting opportunity for us because this center will be specifically serving middle and high school students,” said Boys & Girls Clubs Director of Development Didem Koroglu. “Currently, we do have a teen program. However, we do not have a dedicated building where we’re able to serve this population. We’re very excited to specifically have some programming that is geared more toward teens.”
The center will include access to a gym, computers, a cafe and lounge area, as well as a commercial kitchen where teens will learn about cooking, she said. Additionally, space will be devoted to a game room, fitness areas and laundry facilities. All of the center’s services will be free for teens and families.
Koroglu said officials are targeting an August 2024 opening for the center, which is expected to serve around 1,000 youth annually. A groundbreaking will be held before year’s end, she said.
“It’ll be a place where they’ll feel welcome and make connections for their future,” Koroglu said. “When teens and kids enter our doors, we want to make sure they have a set trajectory for their life. We want to make sure we’re providing the opportunities and connections they might want for their future careers.”
Buxton Kubik Dodd Design Collective is architect for the project, which doesn’t have a general contractor on board yet, Koroglu said.
Nonprofit officials set a $12 million goal for the teen center’s capital campaign, which includes three years of operating expenses. Koroglu said BGCS earlier this year received $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding from the city and $2 million from Greene County for the project. That’s in addition to over $1 million raised through private donations, including an undisclosed amount from Jon Risdal, a longtime supporter and current BGCS board member, which resulted in naming rights for the facility.
“We’re silently doing our capital campaign, but we’re full-force working on it right now,” she said.
Part of the project cost is to buy the land on Catalpa Street. Koroglu said the nonprofit is in the process of purchasing roughly 3.1 acres for an undisclosed price from DHTC Development LLC.
The local development company is making plans of its own on adjoining Catalpa Street property for Nordic Landing, a $9 million, 44-unit affordable housing development that will include five market-rate units, seven units for youth aging out of foster care and the rest as affordable housing for people with qualifying incomes, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Springfield City Council last month approved a $300,000 loan for the development.
The teen center will be a short walk from Parkview High School, eliminating transportation barriers for youth to attend classes, Koroglu said, adding the nonprofit wanted to build in the Grant Avenue Parkway corridor.
“It’s a very good community building effort for us to be able to be in that location and really enhance that Grant Avenue Parkway project,” she said.
The teen center’s first two floors will be dedicated to BGCS programming and administrative offices. However, another nonprofit will occupy the third floor. FosterAdopt Connect plans to lease roughly 11,400 square feet when the building opens in two years.
“We knew they were looking for a space, so we just started the conversation,” Koroglu said. “It was just the right timing.”
Brandi VanAntwerp, FosterAdopt Connect executive director, said the space will house the nonprofit’s new Youth Connect Center, which is set to open in October for the next two years in downtown Springfield. It then plans to move to the BGCS building. The center aims to serve homeless and at-risk youth, ages 13-18.
FosterAdopt Connect’s mission is to provide foster and adopted children a stable, loving and nurturing family environment through support and advocacy.
VanAntwerp said supply chain issues with furniture and appliances have delayed the center’s opening by a few weeks. It will have space for offices, lockers for youths to use, as well as individual shower rooms and a laundry area. The back of the building will have pantries stocked with hygiene items, clothing and food for teens to use or take with them.
“We’ll also be serving meals to the youths to be sure they get a hot meal,” she said.
Annual costs to operate the center are estimated at $600,000, VanAntwerp said.
“We wanted to be centrally located,” she said of the center’s initial location at 425 W. McDaniel St., Ste. 160. “We wanted to be accessible and really a low-barrier entry for youth who may come in for services with us downtown. We’ll have that space until we can move into the permanent spot for the program with Boys & Girls Clubs.”
The Risdal Family Center plans are in addition to BGCS expanding the reach for its programming with a pair of moves made this summer.
The nonprofit, which historically has served students 6 and older with before- and after-school programming, as well as summer initiatives, began accepting 5-year-olds last month. BGCS serves more than 13,000 local youth each year.
Expanding services to 5-year-olds was preceded by launching a club in Marshfield. Koroglu said the program began Aug. 29 and currently serves 50 children during school hours on Monday, as the Marshfield R-I School District transitioned this year to a four-day week for classes.
The goal for BGCS in Marshfield is to serve 200 K-8 students with programming, as well as breakfast, lunch and an afternoon snack, according to past reporting.
“This is our first time to offer club services outside of Springfield,” Koroglu said, noting the nonprofit hired four employees to staff the once-a-week program.
Adding and retaining staff as new programming comes online has been a priority, she said, noting BGCS employs 109 and has a 2022 operating budget of $4.3 million. The nonprofit raised its minimum wage June 1, increasing to $14 per hour from $11.15 hourly. Youth development professionals received a 25% per hour wage increase, and several full-time and salaried positions also were given pay hikes, she said, declining to disclose the organization’s increased wage investment.
Koroglu credits the nonprofit holding career fairs at area colleges and high schools helping bring a greater number of young employees on board. An internal referral program and an active recruitment effort this year also are paying dividends, she said.
“We have a lot of different strategies that are all working together,” she said.
Atlanta-based Chicken Salad Chick made its Springfield debut; husband and wife Garrett and Rose Cochran opened Heirloom Candle Bar; and mobile eatery Girldad BBQ LLC was launched.