The Peaceful Valley Community Center has always been different from the other community centers in town.
It’s crammed full, and located in a small temporary building from the 1970s; for years it was operated by the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department. The building and property, as well as nearby Glover Field, is still owned by the Parks Department, but the Peaceful Valley Community Center is now operated by its own nonprofit organization.
And it would like to move to All Saints Lutheran Church on South Spruce Street in Browne’s Addition.
That location, said center director Mark Reilly, would allow the center to expand its youth program and serve residents not just in Peaceful Valley but also in Browne’s Addition, Vinegar Flats, downtown and other neighborhoods in southwest Spokane.
“It just makes sense,” Reilly said, “we have some children from Peaceful Valley but many more from the rest of southwest Spokane, and there is no Southwest Community Center.”
At a recent Browne’s Addition Neighborhood Council meeting, residents debated the effect a community center would have on that neighborhood. Some were supportive of the move. Others were concerned that a community center would attract transients seeking services such as food bank access and lead to an increase in people sleeping across the street in Coeur d’Alene Park or camping on the bluff west of the church.
The Rev. Alan B. Eschenbacher said All Saints is “completely on board” and would welcome the community center.
“We look upon it as an extension of the community programs already at the church,” Eschenbacher said. “We have a full basement that’s not used for anything else. We could double their youth program in size, and we already have a health-certified kitchen.”
However, the move is far from a done deal.
A major hurdle is the $300,000 it would cost to bring the church basement up to code for a child care center, install a sprinkler system and its own entryway, as well as other improvements.
Reilly said he was under the impression the city would foot that bill.
However, at a July meeting with Neighborhood Services’ Jonathan Mallahan and director of community development Mike Adolfae, Reilly said he was told the city wouldn’t be able to support the center with more than perhaps $15,000 in community development funds.
“That kind of left us dead in the water,” Reilly said. “I mean, where do you come up with the rest of the money? No one can tell me what we are spending our money on that’s so important we can’t find money to fund youth programs.”
Mallahan wrote in an email that the city can’t make any firm commitments to funding as long as Peaceful Valley Community Center hasn’t demonstrated that the move makes sense over the long term.
“In our meeting with Mr. Reilly, Mike Adolfae and I indicated that he and his board would need to provide further analysis as to why this move would make financial sense,” Mallahan wrote in an email. “As it stands, no analysis has been completed so it is not appropriate to commit any public funds.”
The idea to move Peaceful Valley Community Center to a more suitable location was first floated three years ago, said Kathy Thamm, executive director of Community-Minded Enterprises. Among the move’s champions were former City Council President Joe Shogan and architect Ann Martin of Heylman Martin Architects, who donated design plans for the project.
Thamm, who lives in Peaceful Valley, got involved because she’s in charge of Childcare Aware of Eastern Washington, an organization that supports child care providers and helps parents with child care referrals.
“We are currently doing a feasibility study to see if a child care program located at the church could stand on its own financially,” Thamm said. “We are expecting that study to be done by the end of September.”
She said she understands Reilly’s and Eschenbacher’s frustration with the slow process, but that it’s her experience that community development projects take time.
As for finding funding, Thamm is not ready to give up.
“It’s a matter of where we can find some funds and how they can be combined, what pots we can dip into,” she said.