The Cambridge City Council voted unanimously to further investigate using the former Ace Tack building as a teen center during its Sept. 5 meeting.
According to City Administrator Lynda Woulfe, she has been exploring possible options for the use of the former Ace Tack building since the city purchased it in July.
The building, located at the corner of Highway 95 and Main Street, eventually will be torn down as part of the Highway 95 widening project, but that won’t happen for at least a few years.
Woulfe said with Discover Downtown’s ongoing initiative, it is important not to have vacant buildings in the downtown area. Gary Hawkins has been searching for a space for a Teen Center that would serve area youth and provide much needed space for socialization and homework assistance.
“There is a huge unmet need for teens in our community,” Woulfe said. “They need to feel more supported by the adults in their community.”
Hawkins and Young Life staff associate Brad Hannan spoke to the Council on behalf of the teen center and how they desire to work together for the community. Hannan has visited with folks at Cambridge-Isanti High School and local businesses to discuss the teen center.
“I told them about the teen center being in the Ace Tack building and they just loved it,” Hannan said. “We got signatures from principals, counselors, teachers and administrators stating that this would be great, and something they may want to be involved in like after school programs or tutoring programs.”
Hannan also received signatures from local businesses who are in support of the teen center at the Ace Tack building that included Monte’s Auto Repair, Cambridge Floral, Culvers, Cartridge World, Century 21, Chuck Swenson Insurance Agency and Anytime Fitness, among others.
Hannan explained the teen center is not just a place for kids to hang out, but a safe place for kids to go to with male and female volunteers who really care about them. Also, he stated if the teen center were to be in Ace Tack, it would show the city values teens in the community by giving them a safe place to be mentored and educated.
“My hope is that it isn’t just on Friday that the teen center is open. A Monday, Wednesday and Friday would be very doable to find leaders and caring adults to enter in the lives of these kids. And what better way to do that then put the teen center in the heart of downtown Cambridge,” Hannan said.
Woulfe explained there are challenges regarding the Ace Tack building and there needs to be an analysis of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. She said there has been some water in the building and the city did clean up some mold, and there is a dehumidifier running in the basement to control moisture.
“Another challenge is the monthly utility cost. We would need to identify how those would be able to be funded,” Woulfe said. “Based upon the HVAC system being operational, heat, lights or air conditioning, the cost would be anywhere between $400 to $500 per month.”
The city has liability insurance on the building. Also, the ownership group for the parking lot space would require a contribution to the maintenance of the parking lot behind the building.
“We had discussed the possibility of doing a mill and overlay of that parking lot as part of the 2018 street project and that is currently their request of the city,” Woulfe stated. “If the city is to comply with its current parking requirements, we need to identify parking for this building.”
Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer expressed concern about the safety of the Ace Tack building
“I don’t think there is one person sitting here that is not in support of our youth,” she said. “My problem is I’m not sure if this building is absolutely safe.”
The Council decided to designate Suite 162 in the Cambridge City Mall as a short-term space for the teen center until further investigation of the Ace Tack building is complete.
“I will work on the HVAC issue, Gary (Hawkins) and his group will work on getting people to do any committable improvements that they want to do to the building,” Woulfe said. “I would explore the costs of making sure the upper floors are secure and that the basement is not accessible.”
“In our community, we want to go in the direction of kids going down the right path,” Council Member Kersten Barfknecht-Conley said. “If we can do something like this, to create an environment where we can help them not to go down a negative path in life or getting into drugs, I am in support of this.”