As the Central Area Senior Center continues to work with the City of Seattle to acquire the property it has operated in for more than 50 years, executive director Dian Ferguson is celebrating a large grant from King County to establish The Central as an innovative African Diaspora Hub.
The Central is sharing the $1.5 million grant with the Normandy Park Senior Activity Center.
“We took the lead on it,” Ferguson said, “so $989,000 is ours, and the balance is theirs.”
The funding will cover operational costs at The Central, which launched a fundraising campaign in late August in an effort to generate $55,000 for ongoing facilities and capital maintenance costs.
The Central spent around $180,000 developing business, communications, marketing, operations and other plans to satisfy conditions set by former mayor Ed Murray in order to acquire The Central property, which the city council directed be transferred to CASC through a green sheet in last year’s budget.
The Seattle Finance and Administration department determined in 2013 that CASC could assume ownership of the property, as did a 2017 Soul Light report submitted to FAS. Mayor Jenny Durkan has been eyeing the property for redevelopment as affordable housing, despite the Office of Housing’s 2016 determination that such action would be financially unfeasible due to a steep slope behind the center.
Ferguson said the last reporting CASC has to provide to the mayor’s interdepartmental team that has been assessing the nonprofit’s readiness to take over ownership of the property is due on Aug. 30, which includes verifying it is financially secure enough to handle any emergency or required maintenance. There has been plenty of deferred maintenance at the city-owned property over the years, Ferguson said.
In documents transmitted to the mutually offsetting benefit (MOB) interdepartmental team in response to information requested in order to make a transfer determination, CASC lists a number of facility improvements that will be required in the next 3-5 years.
That includes modernizing facility systems, repairs and upgrades to provide ADA access to the basement level and future programming, and infusing art, culture and historical markers into the building to reflect its history and heritage.
“Most of the building’s systems have reached the end of their useful life,” reads a CASC response to the MOB team. “CASC is financially burdened with the resultant maintenance and utility costs of a building owned by the City of Seattle and leased back to CASC through a City of Seattle month-to-month lease agreement in the name of Sound Generations.”
The fundraiser was launched after Sound Generations, for which The Central is a community partner, using it for human resources, accounting and information technology, determined through an audit that there had been charges dating back to 2013 that had never been applied, Ferguson said, sapping the $78,000 CASC thought it had in the bank.
Ferguson said CASC is attempting to reach that $55,000 goal by Sept. 1, though there are supporters of the senior center willing to offer CASC a loan.
“Our plan is we raise as much as possible. We think we can,” she said. “If we can’t, we take the loans from the people that are offering them to us, and then we have money in the bank.”
The Central held a fundraising rally on Aug. 22, and was up to $12,000 after that.
“It was just like one of those telethons where people just come up and hand you checks,” Ferguson said.
The $55K Challenge — 55 because that’s the age people become seniors — seeks donations of 55 cents, $55, $155, $555, and so on.
Adding to Ferguson’s frustration is the matter of The Central’s aging parking lot, for which the nonprofit sought a permit to repair and reconfigure for better traffic flow in April 2017. The permit was just received this month, and cost $49,000 when all was said and done. The estimated project cost is $125,000, Ferguson said, adding it’s silly The Central had to pay 40 percent of that amount just to get the permit to improve a city-owned property.
People interested in supporting The Central can find more information at centralareasrcenter.org. A copy of the pledge card can be downloaded below.
Pledge Card CC by branax2000 on Scribd