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January 27, 2012

Center likely to remain in Cleveland, but may be smaller

Cleveland--The Cleveland LGBT Center’s new location should be at street level, have good parking, be wheelchair-accessible and be in an easily-reached area.

These are some of the qualities given as most desirable in a survey taken by the center, which is considering a move to new quarters.

Two more stand out: It will remain in the city of Cleveland--requested by almost three-quarters of the responses--and may be smaller than the current one.

The size would be determined by the cost per square foot to rent new space, which must be no more than the current location, board member Bryan Bowser told a January 24 town-hall meeting held to discuss the move. The center presently pays about $3 per square foot for its space in the lower lever of the Gordon Square Arcade--a bargain compared to $12-15 for street-level space in the area, he noted.

Bowser encouraged more people to take the survey, which will remain online until February 1 at www.lgbtcleveland.org.

Three hundred people have responded to the poll so far, plus 30 people who attended the Tuesday-night meeting.

“People have been very thoughtful in their responses,” Bowser said, “They’re not just throwing together something.”

A committee of five people have been exploring possible new locations for the center since last fall. A decision was expected by March, but there is no deadline, Bowser said.

“We removed the crush of a deadline from our deliberations,” he said, adding that to limit the time to spring or summer would be shortsighted. “It won’t hurt to take our time--we’ve been here 11 years.”

Another factor is that the committee’s search for a new location has not turned up anything suitable. The possibility exists of the agency remaining in the current space but remodeling it.

However, “This facility is too large for what we actually need,” said board president Bob Sferra. It is 7,000 square feet, and with the current 14 programs and three full-time staffers, 2,000 to 3,000 square feet would be comfortable.

Bowser later gave highlights from the online survey. Along with the 72% who want the center to stay in the city of Cleveland, 57% want it to be at street level. To the question of whether or not to move at all or remain in the current space, 44% said “Move,” 29% said “Stay,” and 26% had no opinion.

People at the town-hall were asked to write what they like about the current facility, and what they would want in a new one.

The first list included, “Lots of space,”  “Easy to get to,”  “Hip neighborhood,”  “Homey feel,”  “24-hour bus line,”  “Parking,”  “Good kitchen and lavatories,” and “The price is right.”

The second one noted, “Ground level,”  “Rooms with windows,”  “More flexible meeting space; moveable walls,”  “More parking,” and “Clean floors.” Bowser added that many people taking the online survey also asked for parking, natural light and cleanliness.

At the end, Bowser asked people to stand where they would like the new center to be, with one end of the room being Cleveland Heights and University Circle, the middle being downtown and the other end being the Edgewater area.

Most people gathered between downtown and Edgewater, which would be Gordon Square--the center’s current location.

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The center has had six addresses since it began in 1975 as the Gay Education and Awareness Resources Foundation. After a Gay Hotline was operated out of an office near West 25th and Clark, the first Gay Community Center opened in May, 1977 on the third floor of the Coventryard building at Coventry and Euclid Heights Blvd. Eight months later, a fire destroyed the building. GEAR reopened in late 1978 downtown, then moved to West 14th and Auburn in Tremont two years later, then to a house near Fulton and Lorain in1982. The name was changed for a 1988 move to the Man’s World building at West 29th and Detroit, and the center moved to its current location in May, 2000.

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