Inner city community center planned

The Salvation Army is narrowing its search for a site to build a $10 million to $15 million community center in Milwaukee’s inner city. Funding for the community center will come from the $1.5 billion gift to the Salvation Army from Joan Kroc. Kroc, who died in October, was the wife of McDonald’s restaurants founder Ray Kroc. As a condition of the donation, Joan Kroc requested that the Salvation Army use the money to build community centers across the United States similar to the $92 million facility she paid for in San Diego.
The Salvation Army plans to build one of those community centers in Milwaukee.
Construction could begin early next year and be completed by the end of the year.
"It could be a landmark thing for the city," said Kevin Reeder, social service director for the Salvation Army’s Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Division.
The Salvation Army is considering nine or 10 sites for the Milwaukee community center in an area roughly bounded by 2nd Street on the east, 40th Street on the west, Burleigh Street on the north and State Street on the south. One of the sites being considered is near North and Fond du Lac avenues.
"It’s an area where there’s a lot of people that could use some help," Reeder said. "They want us to put it in places to impact the highest amount of people. It’s not going to be in the suburbs. It’s going to be right in the population base."
The purpose of the Kroc community centers will be to provide arts, education and other services for children and families in economically disadvantaged areas.
"They want to look where there’s density of youth population and educational needs," said Roseann St. Aubin, director of communications for the Department of City Development. "We have talked with them. They are just trying to gather information about sites. We did suggest some areas."
The Salvation Army plans to meet with community groups to determine what specific services should be offered at the proposed Milwaukee community center. Those services might include fine arts activities for children, after-school mentoring programs, Internet access for school projects, job skills training, childcare and athletic facilities. The center also might have a multi-purpose theater and space available for lease to other social service agencies.
The facility is not intended to replace existing Salvation Army centers or compete with other community service organizations, Reeder said. The goal, established by Kroc, is to provide additional services to the community.
"We don’t want to replicate what’s already in place," Reeder said.
The Kroc community center will not be used to provide housing for the homeless or food for the hungry, Reeder said. Instead, the center will be focused on providing safe, beneficial activities for children and assistance that will help their parents find a job, or a better job.
"We want to provide opportunities for people to get the resources they need to be successful," Reeder said.
The Salvation Army has not decided how big the facility will be. However, it will likely occupy about two to three acres, Reeder said.
The community center will be smaller than the 12-acre facility Kroc paid for in San Diego, Reeder said. That center opened in 2002 and includes an aquatic center, ice arena, gymnasium, athletic fields, family enhancement center, childcare center, performing arts center, education center, 10,000-volume library, two computer labs and a Salvation Army chapel. The center has served more than 730,000 people since it opened, according to the Salvation Army.
The Milwaukee community center is expected to create about 50 to 60 jobs, some full-time and some part-time, Reeder said. Employees will be needed for administration, security, housekeeping, program operations and childcare.
The facility could provide a boost to the neighborhood and attract some businesses to nearby properties, St. Aubin said.
"It could be considered a potential catalytic project," she said. "It could do a lot for a neighborhood."
The Salvation Army has not selected a general contractor or an architect yet for the center. The organization is looking for a developer to assist with the project, Reeder said.
As many city residents as possible and as many subcontractors from the city as possible, will be hired to work on the construction project, Reeder said.
The Salvation Army hopes to find vacant property to build the community center because demolishing existing structures would raise the project cost, Reeder said.
Some government assistance might be available to eliminate blighted structures, if necessary, St. Aubin said.
"That door is certainly open," she said. "We’ll talk with any developer about that."
The money donated by Kroc will pay for the construction project and will also cover some of the operating costs. However, some fund-raising may be necessary to cover additional operating costs, Reeder said. The Salvation Army plans to contact local foundations after architectural renderings of the building are available.
The Salvation Army plans to build 25 to 30 Kroc community centers in the United States. The organization may eventually build community centers in Madison or Green Bay, Reeder said.

April 2, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display