Facility to bring Waukegan community center much-needed programmatic and storage space
When Beacon Place began in late 2012, the founders had visions for programs that would serve local children and families. Since then, a once abandoned, dilapidated house has become a thriving community center that now serves over 700 kids and adults. Beacon Place offers not only seasonal outdoor programs, but also year-round tutoring and life skills services that take place in the revived 110-year-old “big blue house.” The campus also had a standalone garage.
The community has embraced Beacon Place programs so enthusiastically that space has become a constraint on supporting the growing numbers. But change is on the way—the old garage is gone, and in its place will rise a 2,400-square-foot annex. It will offer much more space for efficient delivery of the organization’s many programs.
On a sunny afternoon in late November, Beacon Place held a small groundbreaking ceremony to kick off construction, which is expected to finish by early summer, 2018. Legat Architects (Gurnee, IL) donated design services for the facility, while Joseph J. Henderson & Son (Gurnee, IL) is providing general contracting services at no cost to the organization.
No More Space Shortages (or Bumping Heads)
On most summer days, the Beacon Place grounds undergoes a transformation—in the morning, an empty yard becomes an activity center full of tables, tents, and benches. At the end of the day, volunteers disassemble everything and, until now, stuff it into the dilapidated garage built in the 1920s. Beacon Place also used the garage for its summer lunch and backpack programs.
“The garage was literally falling apart,” said Beacon Place spokeswoman Peggy Talbot. “There was no way to repair what was there.”
The first of the annex’s two floors will resolve these space issues, and allow Beacon Place to more quickly set up and deliver its programs. It includes backpack racks, a lunch prep area, and space for equipment and general storage.
Currently, the house’s basement is overcrowded with everything from workbenches and tools to food and backpacks. Also, volunteers sometimes hit their heads on the cellar door while transporting equipment and furniture to the yard.
The annex’s first floor offers two eight-foot-high rolling doors (similar to garage doors) that open to the grounds.
Large Group Space
Although the recently renovated house is in good shape, it lacks an open space to hold larger groups. For instance, parent assemblies split into several meetings because the house’s largest space did not hold the entire group. Similarly, on Veteran’s Day, vets had to speak to several medium-sized groups of children rather than to one large group.
This lack of large meeting space will become a thing of the past with the annex. Its second floor features a large, multipurpose space that divides into two smaller activity rooms via a folding partition. It also has a kitchenette and additional storage.
Contact us with design opportunities for your community, or comment below to share your thoughts on this post.