Coming home: Wallingford Boys and Girls Club to return to original building

The Wallingford Boys & Girls Club recently completed the first phase of renovations to its original building and is hoping to move back to the site sometime in 2006.

The building, at 1310 N. 45th St., had not been renovated since it was built in 1952. The first phase of the project was completed in 2004 and included a new roof, gym floor, gym painting, exterior painting and new signage. The club is currently running an active campaign to raise enough funds to complete the work.

In the next phase, the club plans to reconfigure the space to include a much larger game room, no hallways, an elevator and more windows to bring in natural light.

Local developer Suzie Burke and the Fremont Dock Co. purchased and donated the adjacent property to the club, which will provide a space to build a courtyard and outdoor play area.

Also planned are a computer lab, art studio, teaching kitchen and learning center to be made available to community groups for meetings, basketball games, computer use and events.

"The club will be barrier-free, meaning there will be an elevator to allow all youths, regardless of physical ability, to participate in all club programs," said capital-campaign director Jamie Flaxman. "And by removing the hallways and corners we are making the facilities safer for the younger kids."

A dedicated teen space will offer easy access to the courtyard and its own entrance.

Sixth-grader Jazmine Velazquez is excited to have a teen center in the new space. "It will be neat to have our own space," she said. "It will be pretty interesting."

On the move

The center has not operated at the 45th street location since 1989, when it moved to Lincoln High School with the intention of making it a permanent facility.

In 1997 the Seattle School District needed Lincoln to house Ballard High School while that school's new building was under construction.

The club then moved to Emmanuel Bible Church near the Woodland Park Zoo, where it has remained since. This location has taken the club out of its community, resulting in a drop in the number of youths served, Flaxman said.

For Flaxman, the church has been a nice temporary location, but she is eager to bring the club back to a more central location where it can serve more youths because of its proximity to a number of schools.

"The 45th street facility gives us access to kids at Hamilton [International Middle School], Roosevelt [High School], Lincoln and St. Benedict's [private school]," she said. "Right now, we are only serving about 1,000 kids per year, but hopefully we can bring our numbers up to 1,200 a year with the move."

Returning to the original site also will allow the club to expand the hours of service on nights and weekends, as well as offer new programs in education, the arts and physical fitness.

Unit director Meghan Sweet said she looks forward to being able to provide teens with a place to go in the evenings and families a place to go on the weekends.

Going back

Ben Ramage first attended the club as a kindergartner in 1988 and is now the recreation coordinator. He fondly remembers taking karate at the 45th street facility and playing hide-and-seek at Lincoln.

"It's one of those safe places for youths to go after school, to get out, make lifelong contacts, and have fun," he said. "Going back to 45th will give the club a chance to boost its numbers and establish a sense of home."

Eighth-grader Kevin Mueller has been going to the club for seven years. "The move will give us a bigger space in a better location. Everyone's excited to see it happen," he said.

Open house

The club is inviting community members, club alumni and friends to an open house on Thursday, April 7, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Taco Del Mar will provide the food, and plans will be available for review.

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