The same Christian organization that has operated the Westside Community Center for 12 years will likely continue to oversee operations at the popular center for at least 15 years, the city of Colorado Springs announced Thursday.
The Center for Strategic Ministry, a community outreach program at Woodmen Valley Chapel, topped the list in the search for a new director that began last year.
City council does not have to approve an evaluation committee’s recommendation to hire the Center for Strategic Ministry, city spokeswoman Jennifer Schreuder said.
A new contract will require administrative approval, she said, from Mayor John Suthers and/or Chief of Staff Jeff Greene.
City officials wouldn’t say how many bids were submitted in that round because the process isn’t finalized, she said.
The redeveloped elementary school property has become a popular fixture in the neighborhood, and residents have fought for more than a year to ensure it stays that way.
This year, 125 programs were held on the three-building campus at 1628 W. Bijou St., said the Rev. Stu Davis, chairman of the board of the Center for Strategic Ministry and city impact pastor for Woodmen Valley Chapel.
These include child care services, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, fitness classes, a food pantry, daily meals for seniors, a nursing center, and other activities.
Additionally, Davis said, hundreds of individuals have rented spaces for baby showers, birthday parties and other events.
The nonprofit organization wanted out of the contract and notified the city last year that it would cease its role as the contract was due to expire at the end of this year.
Davis had told The Gazette in August 2020 that it was time for the Center for Strategic Ministry to consider other projects.
But that has changed.
“We spent the last 12 years working very hard to establish the community center as the center of activity for this community, and everything was on an upward trend until COVID hit,” Davis said.
“We didn’t want the last 12 years to count for nothing; we wanted to continue to build a legacy and serve the neighborhood well.
The city’s parks, recreation and culture department first issued a request for proposals for a new operator in November 2020 and announced in July that it had failed to reach an agreement with its main candidates, which included a charter school and the YMCA.
The city reopened the bidding process in October, with officials pledging to keep neighbors’ concerns in mind.
Residents objected to the city’s statement in August 2020 that the center’s current use may not be the best solution and that a for-profit venture may be a better use. This idea was later withdrawn into consideration.
A coalition to save the center as an asset to the neighborhood has formed.
Some things will change, Davis said, but not until the second quarter of next year when the new contract kicks in.
“Today’s news allows us to communicate a level of stability to other stakeholders on campus and to work on projects and ideas that we have held on to,” Davis said.
Details will have to be worked out, but social enterprises and increased offers for families and children are among the possibilities, he said.
“We already serve a lot of seniors and get constant requests for more programs for families and children,” Davis said.
Schreuder said the Center for Strategic Ministry is the No. 1 candidate based on meeting the criteria of being a financially stable entity that could manage, operate and maintain the community center, ensuring the site “supports and promotes activities that will provide beneficial services to the West Ward as well as the community as a whole”, and reduce the maintenance and capital requirements of the city by supporting these aspects.
The city has set aside $1.375 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for priority capital improvements, she said.
Some city council members have noted that the city spends less money on the West Center than on other community centers.
Davis said financial details are to be negotiated, but his organization’s proposal includes a request for additional funding from the city.
His organization offered to pay for day-to-day maintenance costs, broken windows, capital improvements remaining the responsibility of the city.
“We’re really excited,” Davis said. “For many people in the neighborhood who value the center, it will be a relief to them that we have a response from the city, to build on what has been a successful program and inject more resources into the center.”
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