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Sunday, Sep 21, 2014
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Seattle's LGBT Center closes its doors on Friday
Seattle's LGBT Center closes its doors on Friday
by Barbara Sehr - SGN Contributing Writer

Seattle's LGBT Center closes its doors on Friday. For the first time in nearly six years, the walls in the old brick building at 1115 Pike Street - surrounded by the hammers of new construction - stand empty. Seattle's LGBT Center is as dark as a January night. Q-Arts is on hiatus, Ingersoll is holding its group meetings at Seattle Counseling Services, and library books are in storage. "The Center is re-centering," says Jerry Stewart, president of the Seattle LGBT Community Center's board.

The reinvention is expected to include a new habitat for what was once expected to be the pulse of the nation's second largest Gay community. Although unsuccessful attempts at finding more affordable rental space amidst Capital Hill's rising rates, weak financial management and a dispersed community have challenged the vitality of the Center, board members are about to unveil a plan that is expected to give the community some breathing space as it seeks out a new future. Full details of the plan are to be revealed next week.

A new permanent physical location will open its doors no later than mid-March, Stewart says. While full details of the new space are not yet available, speculation centers around a plan that would move both the Center and Equal Rights Washington into a space on the western end of the Hill near Interstate 5. In the interim, the Center is sharing limited office space with ERW at the latter's current quarters at 209 Harvard Ave E. on Capitol Hill.

The Center's phone resource line at (206) 323-5428 continues to operate from the interim location, and Anna Bacler, the Center's coordinator will manage operations from the short-term address. The Center's Web site (www.seattlelgbt.org) continues to operate as a resource.

Programs of the Center, such as Ingersoll Gender Center, will continue to operate at interim locations as well. The Center's LGBT lending library, and Q-Arts, the Center's ambitious program that offers gallery space for the community's numerous LGBT artisans, is expected to be revived at the new space in March. FruitBowl, the Center's annual fundraiser, is likely to be revived this year, possibly in a scaled-down form.

The Center is currently running a development campaign to energize its financial resources depleted by a difficult year that included a Pride festival on Capitol Hill that raised less net dollars than expected. Contributors can send donations for the new location through a PayPal link on the Center site, www.seattlelgbt.org. A former member of the board expects that Queerfest - which attempted to maintain a separate Pride Festival on Capitol Hill - will not be continued by the Center in 2008, but may be licensed to a local organization.

The now-defunct LGBT Center opened in the spring of 2002 amidst ambitious hopes for a Center that would bring the city's LGBT organizations together in a single space. Early planners also hoped that the Center would ultimately combine much needed housing for LGBT seniors and a central location for the community's organization and entertainment efforts. Models for such Centers exist in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Seattle's many community organizations were already established in their own locations and the idea of a central LGBT community address has faced multiple fiscal and ongoing problems.

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