Maija McManus

Sampan: Historic West End House celebrates $23 million expansion, renovation with Mayor Walsh, community leaders and Boston youth

Maija McManus
Sampan: Historic West End House celebrates $23 million expansion, renovation with Mayor Walsh, community leaders and Boston youth

ALLSTON, MA – AUGUST 29, 2018 – The West End House Boys & Girls Club, an institution serving Boston’s youth since 1906, celebrated a milestone moment in its Expect More Campaign, a $23.5 million expansion of its facility and programming, today with Mayor Martin J. Walsh, local community leaders, families and alumni.

Families from across the city enjoyed an evening of fun and games at the West End House Boys & Girls Club in Allston to remember alumna and co-worker Dawnn Jaffier to celebrate her life’s work guiding and supporting Boston’s youth. The event followed a Grand Opening celebration of the newly expanded facility, during which Mayor Martin J. Walsh was joined by local community leaders, families, children and alumni to cut the ribbon. The expansion of the facility is part of the West End House’s $23.5 million Expect More Campaign, which will also fund expanded programming to reflect the growing demand for services and the strategic transition to programs that emphasize greater expectations and outcomes. Included are a substantial expansion of the teen center and the creation of a multi-purpose performing arts pavilion (shown here) to showcase the work of youth participating in the club’s extensive arts programming. Over the past five years, total membership has grown by 50% and the center now provides a variety of services to more than 1,700 youth from across Boston.

The two-story renovation reflects the growing demand for programs and services, and the strategic transition of West End House programs to emphasize greater expectations and outcomes. Included are a substantial expansion of the teen center and the creation of a multi-purpose performing arts pavilion to showcase the work of youth participating in the extensive arts programming offered at the club. Over the past five years, total membership has grown by 50% and the center now provides a variety of services to more than 1,700 youth from across Boston.

Founded in 1906 in Boston’s old West End, the organization has greatly evolved, weathering the transition to Allston-Brighton, surviving near insolvency and economic recessions, to become one of the most thriving youth development agencies in the city of Boston.

“The West End House has supported new generations of young leaders in Boston for more than 100 years,” said Mayor Walsh. “This expansion is a tremendous gift to Boston’s youth and families, and will help empower our young people and provide greater community connection for years to come. Congratulations to all those who helped make this day possible.”

Andrew Howard, West End House CEO said: “The Expect More Campaign has been transformational for the West End House. It has been a direct response to the enormous growth we have experienced over the past several years with our teen population. We have expanded services and spaces to meet their needs – from college and career advancement to visual and performing arts mastery to improved health and wellness. We are looking forward to a stronger future with a facility that will enable us to better meet the needs of Boston youth.”

“The West End House is an extraordinary institution in Allston. I grew up in Allston-Brighton, and spent many days here playing basketball and participating in many other programs and events,” state Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Allston-Brighton) said. “But the West End House’s reach goes beyond the neighborhood, serving youth from across Boston. The addition of this wonderful performing arts center and new production studios will expand our children’s access to arts and culture programs. This is a proud day for the city and for the people and organizations who came together to ensure that the West End House will be a fixture in this community for decades to come.”

Funding for the project thus far has come from a variety of private philanthropy sources including: New Balance Foundation, Vantage Deluxe World Travel, Barr Foundation, Lewis Family Foundation, Hamilton Company Charitable Foundation, The Klarman Family Foundation, Linde Family Foundation, Liberty Mutual Foundation, West End House’s Board of Directors and Board of Advisors, and many other generous donors. To date, West End House has raised $22 million toward its Expect More Campaign goal of $23.5 million.

The project team consisted of Shawmut Design and Construction, Leers, Weinzapfel Associates (architects) and Joslin, Lesser + Associates, Inc./NV5 (project management).

In total, the project will increase programming space from 32,000 SF to 43,000 SF in order to meet the substantial growth the center has experienced. The two-story expansion includes:

  • A teen wing separate from space for younger children that will be dedicated to academic preparation and college success in addition to social activities;

  • Creation of a 5,000 SF addition, which will include a performance venue and an expanded fitness center. The addition will open to neighboring Ringer Playground, thereby improving access to the public outdoor space, which the city believes will help revitalize the park and reduce crime there;

  • Consolidating arts programming into a wing of the building;

  • Doubling the size of the kitchen to serve more youth;

  • Consolidating college and career readiness programs into a wing of the building;

  • Renovation of 6,000 SF existing “mothballed” space on the second floor;

  • Space rationalization: West End House will be able to redesign the building into dedicated wings for the arts and for teen programs as well as expand the dining area;

  • Building renewal: West End House will address immediate building needs, such as a new roof and HVAC system.

Background

West End House is one of the largest youth development agencies in the city, providing high-impact programs that ensure that young people are succeeding academically, exploring and mastering the arts, developing career readiness skills and adopting healthy lifestyles.

In 2008, in the depths of the recession, families from across the city were calling on West End House to provide an affordable and highly structured out of school time program. The organization’s teen population alone skyrocketed from around 300 youth per year, more than doubling to 750 (today they are seeing 1,000 teens annually and have been recognized for being in the top 2% of Boys & Girls Clubs nationally in terms of serving teens). During this period the West End House facility was bursting at the seams.

The organization’s programs and population were growing but their facilities were not keeping pace. There was overcrowding across all program areas and a significant need to expand the building, especially for teens crammed into a 900 SF room that doubled as both an academic and social space. In the West End House Cafe, kids stood with their dinner plates waiting for a place to eat at one of the few dining tables, and grabbed a seat as soon as others were done with their healthy meals. Young artists who had practiced in the Music Clubhouse for months were relegated to having their showcase performance in the gymnasium, muting the effect of their talents.

The West End House’s Expect More Campaign was designed to not only meet the physical needs of the programs, but to enhance the impact of the programs on the thousands of kids served as well. Current programs reflect a strategic transition to greater expectations and outcomes—West End House moved from an emphasis on swim/gym to full-body fitness, from hot meals to nutrition and education, from arts & crafts to arts mastery, and from summer jobs to career readiness. While once focused on dropout prevention, today it prepares youth for high school graduation and college completion. As the programs have evolved, so too has the population it serves.

Over the past five years, total membership has grown by 50% to over 1,700. More young people are joining as teens, and they arrive with greater challenges, particularly with academics. As more youth are pursuing college and career goals, there is a need to provide them with the right staff and the right environment to keep them on track.

West End House, with its shored up finances and its newly renovated and expanded facility, is poised to meet those needs.