New community building at Firwood Circle opens in Auburn
August 8, 2012 · Updated 5:06 PM
For the Auburn Reporter
The cacophony of hammering, nail guns and other construction activity has quieted, soon to make way for the sounds of elated youth who now have a place to study, socialize and exercise after school.
Less than a year after the start of construction, the Firwood Circle youth center, at 314 37th St. SE in a 50-unit public housing garden community in Auburn, is completed and ready to open.
"This facility provides an exciting opportunity for young people to have fun while acquiring skills critical to academic success and to determining their futures," said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority. "Their parents will also get the support they need to put them and their families on the path to self-sufficiency.
"We are grateful to Sen. Patty Murray for her long-standing commitment to providing the resources that help educate and support children and families in communities across the region."
The substantially renovated and expanded 3,366 square-foot facility is equipped with classrooms, a dedicated computer lab, multipurpose meeting/activity space and private counseling areas. Two community nonprofit organizations will run a variety of programs tailored to meet the needs of the residents living in Firwood Circle and the surrounding community.
Starting in September, Neighborhood House will provide youth with a range of life skills, mentoring and academic programs. Beginning Aug. 20, adults will have access to an array of education and employment readiness opportunities including job search assistance, computer skills training, English as a Second Language (ESL) and GED classes through the YWCA Seattle/King/Snohomish. Case management services for families will also be offered.
The center is expected to serve about 40 youth and at least 50 adults on an ongoing basis and is fully accessible for use by disabled clients.
"Academic success is the cornerstone to lifelong success and ending poverty," said Mark Okazaki, executive director of Neighborhood House. "Our programs integrate a variety of activities so that young people can learn, dream and thrive. We're excited about this new facility and look forward to working with students and their families at Firwood Circle."
Construction of the community facility began in December 2011 and was completed on Aug. 3 at a cost of $1 million. The center was funded with a Capital Fund Community Facilities (CFCF) grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development intended to support the development of education and training facilities for public housing residents.
The project employed approximately 40 construction workers and complemented KCHA construction projects funded under the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act which generated over 1,470 living wage jobs across the region.
Previously, the programs at Firwood Circle were run from a cramped room located in the same building as the property management office. The refurbished facility contains more than twice the original program space.
"The King County Housing Authority has always understood that it's critical to help children and families acquire the skills they need to become self-sufficient," said HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Mary McBride. "This beautiful facility does precisely that, connecting residents of the Firwood Circle community with great educational and employment resources."
The venture is part of a broader initiative by the Housing Authority to assist children in low-income households to succeed academically and in life. To support this, KCHA is upgrading community centers at seven Housing Authority properties. By 2013, KCHA will have 18 centers, operated in partnership with nonprofit providers, serving low-income households across King County.
The development is owned and managed by the King County Housing Authority.
KCHA administers a range of quality affordable rental and homeownership programs in the Puget Sound region. The Authority serves more than 18,000 families and elderly and disabled households on a daily basis.
Neighborhood House serves low-income, refugee and immigrant communities providing employment, adult education, case management, youth education services.
YWCA provides services to meet critical needs, promote self-sufficiency, reduce violence, eliminate racism, and achieve equal opportunities for all people.