Volume 73, Number 50 | April 21 - 27, 2004

Hudson Guild hits halfway mark for campaign to remodel center

Hudson Guild’s $10 million “Community Works!” Capital Campaign has entered its public phase with the announcement this spring that fundraising has reached the halfway mark.

“We are thrilled with the response from lead donors,” said Janice McGuire, Guild executive director. “Their tremendous confidence in our effort to modernize and expand the Guild will insure that we remain a vibrant force in the Chelsea community for years to come — at least for the next century!”

At the heart of the campaign is the renovation of the Elliott Center at 441 W. 26th St., which is scheduled to be completed early next year. In a unique public-private partnership, the Elliott Center will continue to occupy space in a building operated by the New York City Housing Authority. This is where most Guild programs have operated. Over the years, however, the space became outdated, and placed limitations on the Guild’s ability to deliver services to Chelsea’s growing population. With NYCHA’s support and a new 25-year rent- and utility-free lease, the renovated facility will occupy the same three floors, but resolve a host of space issues. In addition, everything will be new, from better indoor and natural lighting to more contemporary color schemes and comfortable furnishings.

As the renovation continues, programs and activities that normally take place at the Elliott Center have found temporary homes, some in nearby rented space and some in the other four Guild locations. “Everyone handled the transition very well,” said Brian Saber, deputy executive director. “There were virtually no schedule disruptions whatsoever. Even our theater group has a new home away from home at our Fulton Center.”

According to Saber, the first phase of renovation will address environmental compliance issues, notably asbestos abatement. Once that phase is completed, the renovation will begin in earnest. “The second phase is expected to last about 20 weeks,” he said, “and the summer’s warm-weather months should help keep us on schedule.” If all goes according to plan, the renovated Elliott Center will celebrate a grand opening in early 2005.

Keeping the renovation on track is the “Community Works!” Capital Campaign that Guild officials say may actually reach $11 million before the books are closed. To date, the campaign has raised more than $5.5 million. Among the significant gifts are $500,000 from NYCHA for the upgrading and modernization of the Elliott Center’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system; and $230,000 from Jeffrey Gural, a member of the Capital Campaign Planning Committee, and chairperson of Newmark & Co. Real Estate, Inc. “These are such great examples of community support,” said McGuire, “and a real model for the kind of collaborations the Guild wants to create — public and private interests working together for the good of our community.”

Hudson Guild is Chelsea’s oldest and only comprehensive community center. Each year, the Guild helps more people who live or work in the area than any other nonprofit organization. Guild services are as diverse as the Chelsea community itself; the Guild’s services include childcare and early-education programs, youth development, mental health, arts, recreational, senior programs, community building, advocacy and related programs and services. The Guild was founded in 1895 by Dr. John Lovejoy Elliott, an early leader in New York City’s settlement house and ethical culture movements.

Among the hopes for the project is that it will also help to end the stereotyping often associated with public housing and its residents, attracting more people from the broader Chelsea community.

The center will include 11 public meeting spaces, an almost 300 percent increase from its current four. With greater variety of location and size, the new spaces will allow for more activities, and more opportunity to draw income from rentals to outside groups.

Among its other features, the facility will also be fully handicapped accessible; there will be an inviting youth lounge for expanded youth programs and for time between activities; the new facilities will be larger and more welcoming for family counseling, play therapy and other services that promote better participation; the new lobby entrance will be spacious and comfortable, creating a welcoming environment; improved sound barriers will allow full use of all facilities simultaneously — gym, theater, community meeting/party space — greatly improving privacy for all and making for a better experience for users; and the space will allow for increased adult services to include more participants from Elliott-Chelsea Houses, more programming outside of the Fulton Center and more nontraditional activities for seniors.

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