Closed Laurence F. Lee Boys & Girls Club will be transformed into center where teens can “learn, grow and engage in healthy activities.”
A closed Springfield Boys & Girls Clubs center will be converted into the Citi Teen Center, possibly to open in January, to anchor the corner of Liberty and 10th streets.
Conversion of the Laurence F. Lee Boys & Girls Club “will transform the Lee facility into the coolest (and safest) place for local teenagers, aged 13 to 18, to learn, grow and engage in healthy activities,” says the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Florida.
According to the club, the investment to create The Springfield Project is about $2.5 million.
The Citi financial services giant donated $500,000 as the naming-rights sponsor.
Darby Stubblefield, Boys & Girls Clubs vice president of development, said Publix Super Markets Charities donated $100,000, the Lucy Gooding Charitable Foundation gave $800,000, and Lowes donated $50,000. An anonymous donor pledged $250,000.
An $880,000 Community Development Block Grant through the city from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development tipped the project into development, she said. That was approved in August.
The block grant funds are available for reimbursement for construction expenses and must be expended by September, she said.
Stubblefield cited support from Citi, Publix, the Gooding Foundation, the grant, an anonymous donor and individuals for launching the project.
The city is reviewing a building-permit application for Core Construction of Jacksonville Inc. to renovate the closed Laurence F. Lee club building into The Springfield Project Phase 1.
The civil engineer is Taylor & White Inc. and PQH Group is the architect.
The application calls for a $1.8 million renovation of the 18,255-square-foot, two-story building at 313 E. 10th St.
Built in 1965, the structure served as a Boys & Girls Club for 50 years until it closed in the summer of 2015, according to the club.
The renovated building will include a gymnasium, movie room, robotics and art labs, hair salon and other features.
Citi announced its donation in May 2016, to be made in annual payments of $50,000 for 10 years, said Citi Public Affairs Director Mark Rodgers.
”We have had a long and productive relationship with the Boys & Girls Club for more than 20 years,” said Micah Heavener, Citi Jacksonville site president.
Heavener said the company looks forward to completion of the Citi Teen Center.
“We believe it will benefit the community in a number of ways,” he said.
The Laurence F. Lee club closed because of the recession and rising maintenance costs, “necessitating a total renovation of our buildings and grounds,” according to a project plan on the bgcnf.org site.
In the interim, other locations continue to serve families seeking access to programming, transportation and assistance, the club says.
Children under 13 were transferred to the nearby National Football League Youth Education Town Boys & Girls Club.
In more detail, the club says the Citi Teen Center will include a restaurant, kitchen, game room, dance studio, theater room, rock-climbing wall, culinary arts program, library and learning center, urban farm and herb garden, art studio, gymnasium, robotics lab, radio station and recording studio, cosmetology program, computer lounge, career development programs and community lounge.
It says The Springfield Project will serve 250 to 300 teens annually, “providing them with a place to study, do homework, hang out with friends, or learn a new skill.”
The club says it will incorporate a catering hall to employ teenagers and teach them skills. Weddings, family reunions, business functions and more will be among the events.
It also will offer fresh fruits and vegetables for sale, provide salon services and work to meet neighbors’ needs.
“We will also offer family programming including open houses, book clubs, a community garden, dance lessons, nutrition and cooking classes, finance workshops, and more,” it says.
Donation opportunities range from $100 for a personalized brick in the entryway or garden to $300,000 for the pavilion.
The club will name an element in the facility for the Lucy Gooding Foundation, although “they don’t want to keep us from securing a gift for a naming opportunity.”
“They are very humble and very generous in their giving,” Stubblefield said.
The club says the center will provide positive role models and proper supervision.
It says that in most cases, neighborhoods surrounding Boys & Girls Clubs are at a greater risk of poverty, criminal activity, poor health, school failure and gang involvement.
Among teens served by Boys & Girls Clubs, 78 percent belong to an ethnic minority, 68 percent do not live with both parents and 86 percent participate in free or reduced-cost lunch programs.
The Springfield Project, the club says, is “the kind of refuge that teenagers in those critical after-school and weekend hours need.”
A second phase is not fully planned, Stubblefield said.