Intergenerational center granted a Southend future

The future of South Whidbey's intergenerational community center looks brighter all the time.

A joint venture to build a combined senior and youth community center at Bayview got a big boost last week when the project received a $750,000 federal Community Block Grant. Following an effort spearheaded by Larry Kwarsick, Island County's former public works director, the grant was announced publicly for the first time at Monday's meeting of the Board of Island County Commissioners.

Eventual occupants of the proposed "intergenerational" center include the South Whidbey Youth Center and the South Whidbey Senior Center. Both organizations are currently housed in buildings that program administrators say are too small and inadequate for the needs of their clients.

Mike McIntyre, the executive director of Senior Services of Island County, said Thursday the grant money is earmarked for the construction of a building referred to as South Whidbey Commons. The facility will support youth, seniors and families in need, McIntyre said.

"We're looking to have a larger facility to meet the needs of an increasingly large senior population," McIntyre said.

By the year 2020 the senior population in Island County will be two-and-a-half times larger than it is today, according to estimates used by Senior Services.

McIntyre said his organization is looking to sell the current senior center at Bayview and contribute the proceeds to the slated construction of the new intergenerational center, which in total size will be about 20,000 square feet of building space.

McIntyre said the time frame on completion is still two to three years off. Project groups are getting together right now to discuss coordinated fundraising. The idea, McIntyre added, is to raise enough funds so they won't have to go to the voters for money.

"We still have planning we're doing this month," McIntyre said.

Mindy Magnusson, the director of the South Whidbey Youth Center, said a committee working on the intergenerational center concept is still trying to figure out how to raise the approximately $2 million in additional construction funds needed to start construction. She said the organizations involved in the center are also trying to nail down a location. Late last year, Bayview's Goosefoot Community Fund offered to lease land to the project on a perpetual basis for free. Magnusson said that donation is still to be finalized.

The total project will come in at about $4 million, McIntyre said, including the $700,000 in land value that is expected to be donated by Goosefoot.

In concept, the intergenerational center will function with seniors and youth sharing the same spaces. There are plans to create a community kitchen that will provide senior meals as well as food for the Meals on Wheels program. Also, a planned computer center will provide opportunities for youth and seniors to share ideas and knowledge.

"It really fits South Whidbey well," McIntyre said. "We're really concentrating on intergenerational activities as much as we can."

Last year, Kwarsick and other intergenerational center supporters proposed building the center around a central space that could include food, beverage and other vendors.

South Whidbey Record editor Matt Johnson contributed to this article.

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