SCHENECTADY — The Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady is planning a new $10.9 million youth facility in Quakenbush Park to serve the Mont Pleasant and Hamilton Hill neighborhoods.
The two-story, 38,587-square-foot building has been in the works for years, club officials said Thursday during an announcement about the new facility. The plans predate the sale of the organization's former building on Craig Street to Community Builders, which needed the space for a larger community redevelopment project. Since that sale, Boys & Girls Clubs have offered their services through satellite programs in the city's schools.
The new center would be a state-of-the-art youth services building.
"The former facility serving young people in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood was woefully inadequate," said Mark Little, who is heading the fundraising effort. "The Boys & Girls Club staff did an excellent job of making the most of what was available there, but it is now time for us to invest in the youth of our city and provide appropriate space and facilities to serve them with the level of programming they deserve."
The new center was designed by Synthesis Architects of Schenectady specially to meet the needs of all youths — including at-risk children and teens — that the clubs serve, he said.
At an event at the Rotterdam Boys & Girls Club, club officials announced they've already raised $7.6 million from a variety of corporations, foundations and individuals and are now pushing to raise the final $4 million needed to begin work.
"Our greatest hope is that we can put shovels in the ground on Labor Day 2018 and have a ribbon-cutting on Labor Day 2019," clubs Executive Director Shane Bargy said. "That's if everything goes perfectly."
Fundraising is headed up by Little and his wife, Terri. Little is the retired head of GE Global Research in Niskayuna.
"Our investment in this project is an investment in the future of these children and young people — and in our community," Little said.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Schenectady, founded in 1936, is the largest youth services organization in Schenectady County, operating 18 sites, including youth centers, parks and swimming pools and Camp Lovejoy, which provides a summer camp for children and teens from the city's poorest neighborhoods. The organization serves about 13,000 youths annually.
The new center would include a 4,000-square-foot teen center, a commercial learning kitchen, large game rooms, technology centers, program rooms and a gym with bleachers. There will also be office space and a theater that is being designed in partnership with Proctors.
"Especially for youths who aren't athletic, the arts are an outlet," Bargy said.
The facility would be able to serve about 300 youths per day — about triple the number the old Hamilton Hill facility could handle.
City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield praised the plans.
"This is what the community needs," she said. "This is what the kids need. It is much better than the facility we had, and this one recognizes the needs of the kids."
The location will be in Quakenbush Park, on the border between the Hamilton Hill and Mont Pleasant neighborhoods, and close to two of the city's schools.
The state Legislature earlier this year approved a bill allowing the city to sell a building lot in the park to the Boys & Girls Clubs.
State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, said the measure came up near the end of the spring legislative session and required negotiations to get it through both chambers of the Legislature and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
To date, all fundraising has been done privately. But if state money is needed to meet the final goal, Santabarbara said he has told club leaders he would support including some funding in the state budget.
The Boys & Girls Clubs promote social, educational, health, leadership and character development among young people.
Organizations or individuals interested in donating to the campaign are asked to contact Tish Czachor at 518-374-4714 or [email protected].