Frequently Asked Questions
#ImagineEastsideCommunity-based solutions are a great complement to law enforcement efforts. Eastside Community Center is part of the solution as shown in this KING5 segment. #ImagineEastside
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why does Tacoma need a new community center?
- Where will the center be built?
- How soon can the Eastside community center be built?
- Who will benefit?
- What can people expect to see and do in the center?
- What about Portland Avenue Community Center and Eastside Pool?
- What organizations are working on this?
- Who will operate the new center?
- How have the partner organizations engaged the community?
- How will the operators measure success?
- How much will the Eastside community center cost to build?
- What will the center look like when it’s done?
- What will be the center’s formal name?
- What is Team Billy Ray?
- How can I help?
- Contact Us
1. Why does Tacoma need a new community center?
The Eastside neighborhood is home to a dense and racially and ethnically diverse population. Yet, the neighborhood lacks safe and attractive places for children, youth and their families to gather, play, learn and grow.
During the Great Recession, many services and programs were shuttered. The Swan Creek Library shut down in 2010. Salishan Community Center closed as part of a larger redevelopment. And other opportunities were lost or never existed.
In the face of this, the community has the highest concentration of 10- to 14-year-olds – the target age group for gang recruitment. More grandparents are raising children, and the neighborhood has the second-lowest median household income in the city.
Metro Parks Tacoma, the City of Tacoma, Tacoma Public Schools, the Tacoma Housing Authority, the Greater Metro Parks Foundation, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound are stepping in to help the community fill these needs. By working together to #ImagineEastside, these partners and others will fill these critical gaps in service and provide residents with the resources to create their own bright future. 2. Where will the center be built?
An analysis of potential sites concluded that the campus of First Creek Middle School, located at Portland Avenue and 56th Street, is an ideal location. The school district is sharing the land so we can develop it as a true campus for the community. It’s also conveniently close to Swan Creek Park, which allows for nature walks, mountain biking and other programs that get youth outside and engaged with the natural world. 3. How soon can the Eastside community center be built?
We received permits from the city in early June 2017, and the general contractor, Korsmo Construction, immediately began work. The new center is scheduled to open in late summer 2018. 4. Who will benefit?
Current estimates are the center will serve up to 350,000 visitors a year. A key focus will be on youth and young families with multigenerational ties. The Boys & Girls Club currently serves an average of 100 youths per day, and they expect to more than double that through this partnership.
The primary service area is from Interstate 5 to 72nd Avenue, and from Pacific Avenue to Swan Creek.
But it will draw from a much larger area. The aquatics center, which will replace the aging Eastside Pool, is expected to be a regional attraction, with visitors from all over Tacoma as well as Puyallup, Midland, Spanaway and other neighboring areas. 5. What can people expect to see and do in the center?
The center’s main focus is on youth and young families with intergenerational ties, and programs are being developed with these residents in mind. For youth ages 6 to 18, for example, programming will focus on three areas:
- Academic success
- Character and leadership
- Healthy lifestyles
Really, though, there’s something in it for everyone. People of all ages can exercise, take art and cooking classes, and much more. Click here for a list of amenities under consideration. 6. What about Portland Avenue Community Center and Eastside Pool?
At 7,400 square feet, Portland Avenue Community Center is undersized and lacks community amenities such as a gymnasium and teaching kitchen. The Eastside Pool building has reached the end of its useful life, and is wedged among shuttered school buildings that are set to be sold and redeveloped. The new 55,000 square-foot community center will replace these aging, outdated facilities and provide far more opportunities for the community.
A key assumption regarding the operating budget for the new center includes transferring operations from the Portland Avenue Community Center and the Eastside Pool to the new center.. However, no decisions have been made about the Portland Avenue property.
Metro Parks is reaching out to other community partners to assess their levels of interest in the property or in partnerships, and the park district is looking for feedback from the neighborhood about needs and impacts before making any recommendations to the Board of Park Commissioners.
7. What organizations are working on this?
- Metro Parks Tacoma, which operates STAR Center in South Tacoma, the Center at Norpoint in Northeast Tacoma and People’s Community Center in the Hilltop neighborhood, is the lead planning agency.
- Tacoma Public Schools is providing the land on the First Creek Middle School campus.The goal is to operate the two buildings in partnership to maximize uses for the community.
- City of Tacoma is providing funding, leadership and connections to the neighborhood.
- Tacoma Housing Authority, which developed the nearby Salishan community, helped us secure $6 million in federal tax credits.
- Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound is co-leading the private fundraising effort with the nonprofit Greater Metro Parks Foundation and will provide youth development programming.
8. Who will operate the new center?
Metro Parks Tacoma in collaboration with Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound.
9. How have the partner organizations engaged the community?
The partners formed a steering committee that includes people from the Eastside and others who are close to the community’s needs. Here is a summary of community engagement so far:
- 2014: The feasibility study included an online survey, 3 public meetings, a design charrette attended by 100 youth, and talks with service partners.
- Fall 2015 into early 2016: The program plan and schematic design were developed through 30 "community cafes" attended by 350 people, six meetings of steering committee partners, a scientific survey, and an open house held at Salishan that was attended by more than 100 people.
- Throughout 2016 and the first half of 2017, the steering committee met monthly, and we invited two different groups of young people to help design the teaching kitchen and the recording studio. As of summer 2017, a third group of young people will consider what kind of public art should go in the building.
- Also in summer 2017, Metro Parks scheduled a series of public meetings to talk about the future of Portland Avenue Park and Community Center and the Eastside Pool building.
10. How will the operators measure success?
Metro Parks and Boys & Girls Clubs have in-depth experience evaluating the success of community programming to make sure the most effective programs are offered to residents. Click here to read more.
11. How much will the Eastside community center cost to build?
The feasibility study recommended a $30 million facility. Final costs will be developed as programming, design and operational plans proceed.
Everyone has a role in making the Eastside community center a sustainable community institution. Financial support is needed to make the center a reality. Several potential and actual funding sources have been identified to pay for capital costs:
- 2014 Metro Parks Tacoma capital improvement bond
- City of Tacoma
- Federal grants via the Tacoma Housing Authority and possibly other partners
- Grants from the Washington State Legislature
- Other sources to be determined
- Private philanthropy
As of early 2016, the project is in schematic design, which means programming and general space needs are being taken into account. The look of the building will be established later, and with much community input. 13. What will be the center’s formal name?
“Eastside Community Center” is the working name, but no decisions have been made on a permanent name. Those will come later per the Metro Parks naming policy, which requires community input. 14. What is Team Billy Ray?
At the age of 17, Billy Ray Shirley saw the need and told his mother he would work to build a new community center. A short time later, he was taken by gun violence. His dream lives through his family and friends: Team Billy Ray. They are working hard to turn his dream into reality. Read more about his story at www.billyray.org. 15. How can I help?
- Sign up for email updates so you can track progress and offer feedback during the stages of the project.
- Contact the Greater Metro Parks Foundation for information about contributing to the private fundraising goal so we can build an incredible asset for the entire community.
Here are some key contacts who can provide information or connect you with the right people:
- Project Managers:
Programs, Services and Partnerships: Dave Lewis, Metro Parks Recreation Director, (253) 305-1067 or DaveL@tacomaparks.com
Design and Construction: Jeremy Woolley, (253) 305-1031 or JeremyW@tacomaparks.com
- Fundraising Manager:
Bryan Flint, Greater Metro Parks Foundation, (253) 305-1066 or Bryan@metroparksfoundation.org
- Request a presentation:
Hunter George, Metro Parks Chief Communications & Public Affairs Officer, (253) 305-1065 or HunterG@tacomaparks.com