New site set to give LGBT center a bigger, better profile

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Blatz building

The historic building complex where the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center is moving is on the National Register of Historic Places. – Photo: Jeramey Jannene

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center’s relocation will enable improvements in both services and programming, said executive director Maggi Cage.

The center is moving this summer into the Blatz Boiler House, 225 E. Highland Ave. Though the paperwork has yet to be finalized, Cage anticipates signing a 10-year lease on four floors of the historic landmark building.

Selection of the space began two and a half years ago. The search process involved the executive directors of all of the LGBT organizations currently housed within the center. They set mandatory criteria for a new space: It had to be on the major city bus lines, it had to have an elevator that went to every floor and it needed to be safe, with adequate fire escapes. They also wanted a building with enough parking to accommodate attendees of the center’s nighttime programming.

The Blatz Building meets all of these criteria, Cage said. In addition, the new location will give the center a street profile in a high-traffic area and offer an improved, more modern layout than the current location at 315 W. Court St.

“We anticipate some of our programs will be better utilized in the space,” Cage said. For example, “currently the choirs are able to rehearse here, but they have to perform someplace else,” she explained. “The new location will have performance space.”

All of the center’s current major tenants plan to make the move simultaneously, and five new tenants might share the space – some of them LGBT-focused organizations and some not, Cage said.

Two of the floors at the new site will require renovation, but Cage said she was unable to answer questions regarding either the rent or build-out construction budget until the lease was officially signed. Renovations will include creating office space for the tenants, building a new conference room and re-working an existing space into a community room.

The center will hold its annual fundraiser at the new site June 27. This year’s theme is a “hard hat party,” which will fund costs associated with outfitting the space.

Guests will have the opportunity to tour the new site. The event will feature live music, catering by Potawatomi and prize give-aways.

Patrick Price, the center’s philanthropy director, said he hopes to raise $15,000, which is only a small portion of the projected $75,000 needed to buy office and computer equipment. Additional funding will have to come from grants and matching funds.

“The world is in a very challenging economic situation, and we can honor that,” Price said.

Price said he hopes to have as many members of the LGBT community at the party as possible. “This party is a great opportunity for the community to see how we’ve grown, how we’re serving the community and to celebrate that,” he said.

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