Hiding a community treasure

The Uptown Neighborhood Center at 157 Roy St. is chockfull of neighborhood groups and other resources for residents of Uptown, Queen Anne and Magnolia. But too few people seem to realize that they're missing everything from art classes to a place to pay a parking ticket, according to John Leonard. He is the new coordinator for the city of Seattle's Queen Anne/Magnolia Neighborhood Service Center, which is housed in the Uptown Neighborhood Center.
"People walk by every day and don't know what this big concrete bunker is," Leonard said. "We want to get the word out that this is a gathering place for the community."
To let the community know what the center has to offer, the public is invited to an open house on Tuesday, March 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. Drop by and grab some grub donated by local businesses, visit with Mayor Greg Nickels, meet people and find out what the center can do for you.
The center is home to several community organizations and the district offices of State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and State Rep. Helen Sommers. Other groups, including homeowner associations from nearby condominiums, use the building as a meeting place.
"There are many nights when three groups are meeting in three different rooms," said Jean Sundborg, president of the Uptown Alliance, an informal neighborhood group whose mission is to help implement the Queen Anne Neighborhood Plan in Uptown.
Representatives of community groups, particularly those housed at the center, will be on hand during the open house to talk about what their organizations do. Among the open house participants will be the Uptown Alliance, Queen Anne Historical Society, Easter Seals of Washington, Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce and Queen Anne/Magnolia Neighborhood Service Center.
With all of the development going on in Uptown, displays at the open house will provide information about projects such as the multi-use development slated for the current Tower Records site and the Tribeca development at the Safeway location. Conceptual plans for the Uptown Neighborhood Park also will be available.
"This way you can see the visions of the changes to come in the neighborhood," Leonard said.
The center moved into the Roy Street building on Feb. 18, 2002, after Seattle City Light moved out and the Uptown Alliance spent two years pursuing the space. "The center came about because the Queen Anne Neighborhood Plan said Uptown needs a gathering place," Sundborg said. "How sustainable is a neighborhood plan if you don't have a place to post notices or meet to do the planning?"
Leonard said three people who spearheadedthe pursuit of the center - Sundborg, Ed Pottharst, the former Queen Anne/Magnolia Neighborhood Service Center coordinator, and Gary Wyckoff, former president of Easter Seals of Washington - will be recognized at the open house.
When the Alliance initially formed in 1999, it was located with the Queen Anne/Magnolia Neighborhood Service Center in Fremont. Later in 1999, the organizations were invited by Easter Seals Washington and its then-president, Gary Wyckoff, to share the Easter Seals space in Uptown. They were joined by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles.
But, Sundborg said, the Easter Seals location on Second Avenue West was off the beaten path and too small.
The new center allows multiple activities to take place at one time. Pay city utility bills or access other city services through the Neighborhood Service Center, which Leonard said serves as a "little city hall." Community members can also participate in a group - writers, senior citizens, job search support - that interests them.
A neighborhood bulletin board has been provided where community members can post notices and a lending library instituted where readers can exchange a book they've read for one they haven't. And, if you're looking for an interesting way to meet people and unlock the secrets of the Uptown Neighborhood Center, maybe you should volunteer a few hours at its reception desk.

The Uptown Neighborhood Center is located at 157 Roy St. and can be reached at 684-4812.

Editor Maggie Larrick can be reached at mlarrick@nwlink.com.
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