City closes on lease of site for one-stop resource center

Officials intend to find funding partners and potential tenants who can offset rental costs

The city of Auburn announced months ago its hope for housing a consolidated resource center at the site of the long-closed Sports Page Tavern on Auburn Way North.

On Friday, Feb. 1, it closed with property owners Benson and Kaye Lui on a long-term lease for the site at 2802-2826 Auburn Way North.

“We are very excited that the negotiations are finally complete, and we can move forward with temporary-use permits, to get people in and sheltered while we complete the plan for the entire 23,000 square feet,” Mayor Nancy Backus said Monday evening.

“We do have money in the budget to pay for the leasing. There will be build out of the space. By the end of this month, the goal is to have enough of a temporary partition up that we can bring people in and move them out of the Veterans Memorial Park building,” Backus said.

Right now, the city is keen to find funding partners and potential tenants who can offset rental costs. Last week, city officials made a trip to Olympia, in part to ask for funding for the resource center.

Lori Larson, former director of Phoenix Rising, a part of Valley Cities Behavioral Health campus in north Auburn that helps provide housing and specialized services for young people beset by addiction, mental-health problems and homelessness, is working out who the tenants will be.

City officials say the site offers many positives, among them, its proximity to DSHS, WorkSource, Sound Mental Health, the We Care Day Clinic and Valley Cities. the Metro bus stop at the site and the potential to expand the center into a number of the adjacent empty storefronts.

Auburn’s vision for its one-stop shop embraces the following:

• Relocating the Day Center on I Street Northeast

• Providing a space for King County to fulfill its goal of establishing a once-a-week Community Court in Auburn. It would provide space for 20 or more service providers to be present and available when court is in session – that is, addiction resources, housing placement, mental health providers, employment services and more. And when court is not in session, the facility would provide classroom, educational and meeting spaces and room for service providers to have temporary space on a regularly recurring schedule;

• Providing a space for emergency food services and to enhance opportunities to make healthier food options more available; and

• Providing ongoing space to a handful of community, social and-or human service providers that advances the mission of the hub and the individuals and families that rely upon those services.

Near the close of 2019, the Auburn City Council undid a crucial sticking point by giving Backus the go-ahead to enter into a lease agreement that contained a first-right-of-offer clause rather than a first-right-of-refusal clause.

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