Becky Steinhoff has the appearance of someone who has had all her wishes granted. The executive director of the new Goodman Community Center looks exhilarated by their manifestation, but also a bit stunned by the reality of dreams come true.
This week's opening of the new facility brings the old Atwood Community Center and all its programs and services - plus the Lussier Teen Center, the Loft, a fitness center and gymnasium, a café and catering service - under one roof at the old Kupfer Iron Works building on Waubesa Street.
With grand opening festivities scheduled for Sept. 27, contractors are still working and staff are still settling in. A playground remains to be installed. There are furnishings to arrange and other tasks to be checked off. But strolling through the main entrance brings you face-to-face with the $2 million Goodman brothers gift that has driven the spectacular repurposing of the old Kupfer building.
"We call this our big front door," says Steinhoff, introducing a spacious lobby defined by an abundance of natural light, exposed beams and ductwork. Much of the building's original steel has been retained, in some places supplemented with new steel for improved structure. And the whole building is wireless-ready.
Down one long snaking hallway, past an expansive wall that will serve as display space for art exhibitions, Steinhoff arrives at the Evjue Community Room -a place for weddings, family reunions and center programs. It has a double-sprung floor for dancing and exercise programs, and a partition to divide it into smaller spaces.
She turns a corner into the cafe area and its kitchen, where teens in the center's job training program will work with Ben Hunter of the Underground Food Collective. A name has not yet been determined, she notes, but Kupfer Cafe and Ironworks Cafe are leading contenders. It's scheduled to open Oct. 1.
"Our kids, when they're ready, will be running a catering business that will be able to cater to events in the building as well as anywhere in the community," Steinhoff says. "It's going to be high-end catering. It's not going to be burgers and fries."
Other rooms serve the center's food pantry, senior programs, K-5 academic enrichment and art activities. Scheduled to open on Oct. 1, the fitness center is equipped with Precor step machines, along with resistance-training machines by Cybex and Paramount. The gymnasium is spacious enough to accommodate basketball, net sports, a batting cage and climbing ropes.
In the Lussier Teen Center and the Loft areas, artists have been painting the wall behind the elevated bandstand in a style that fuses graffiti with trompe l'oeil. A separate entrance provides easy access to concerts taking place after the center has closed for the evening.
By bringing all this and more under one roof, the Goodman Community Center "allows us to really grow and develop new programs and new partnerships for the community," says Steinhoff. "In my idealistic view of the world, I see it as a place where people from different socioeconomic backgrounds can come together and be in one place. That, I think, is huge in creating a real sense of community inclusiveness."