The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center is moving to its new location at the Blatz Boiler House, 252 E. Highland Ave., over the summer.
This will be the center’s third home. In 1998, we were located on South Second Street in the Walkers Point area. Our second home, which we currently occupy, is on Court Street north of downtown near Schultz Park.
With each new location, the center has expanded not only its space but also programming. Today, we serve an estimated 8,000 people through various services and programs with more than 90 partnerships.
We are working on the next steps necessary for our move. Once our build-out plans for the new space are approved by the city, it may take six to eight weeks before renovations are completed.
Then we will face the challenge of moving from our home of 10 years – separating trash from treasure. We are paying the cost to move our current tenants with us, and we are hopeful the LGBT community and our allies will help us purchase the office furnishings, technology and equipment needed. Supporters can visit our auction at www.biddingforgood.com/mkelgbt to help.
The new center is close to the Milwaukee School of Engineering campus, Marcus Center for Performing Arts, city hall and such downtown events as Jazz in the Park.
This location gives us a higher profile, accessibility to all floors of the building, additional space for new programming and exciting space that visitors will enjoy.
The search took nearly three years, guided by input from our board of directors and staff, leaders from other LGBT organizations and our recent strategic planning process, which included a broad constituency. All constituencies agreed that the new location must be on major bus lines, be fully accessible and offer a space that is inviting.
The Blatz location will expand the center’s space to about 21,000 square feet, bring new tenants, and allow for program expansion.
New programming will focus on parenting and families as well as exploring the development of an LGBT mental health clinic. In collaboration with other groups, the center participates in a parenting initiative that started two years ago. The parent group consists of Families by Design and Rainbow Families, which have been meeting together for two years. They will have an office at the new center. Additionally, a child-friendly room for younger children is proposed, and the center will explore a partnership with an area educational institution that has expertise in child care and development.
Mental health needs in the LGBT community are another gap in services. With the closing of the Counseling Center of Milwaukee, which provided LGBT-specific counseling and groups, there is a need for us to develop an LGBT mental health clinic. In conjunction with Jewish Family Services, we are exploring funding locally and nationally to support this program, and clinical space for it is proposed in the new location.
Community center members and visitors can take advantage of expanded social activities at the new location. With the proximity of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, Pabst Theater, and Jazz in Park, the center is exploring partnerships with local chefs to provide food service for pre-event gatherings. We are also interested in having box dinners available for Jazz in the Park. Our new community room will double as a performance space for our choruses, an art gallery and rentable event space for the LGBT community and our allies.
We have great things to look forward to at the new Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. I hope you will join us for our Hard Hat Party on June 27 to see the “before” of this new chapter. Visit www.mkelgbt.org to purchase your tickets for this exciting event.