Council authorizes $4 million for new community center

Family First Community Center was proposed by Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin and city of Renton.

Plans for the Family First Community Center — the Cascade/Benson area community center proposed by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin and the city of Renton — are moving forward. Renton City Council authorized up to $4 million for a capital campaign for the project on Monday, April 24.

The city is looking to build an approximate 25,000-square-foot center right next to Cascade Elementary School, in the heart of the Benson community.

The Benson area was chosen for this project largely due to the lack of investment in the area since the annexation of Benson Hill in 2008.

“The goal is to truly serve all the people who live there, make it affordable, make it really worthwhile, and also for us to be able to not exclude anybody,” said Mayor Denis Law at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

In 2016, the population in the area was 23,769, which is about quarter of the city. According to the 2015 demographics, 12.8 percent of the population within the half mile radius of Cascade Elementary School was below the poverty line and earned less than $24,000 per household. Nearly 19 percent of the population is 14 years or younger and 65.5 percent of students from that area are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunches.

Baldwin originally approached Law and expressed his interested in providing a recreational facility in Renton last year.

“The day I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I fell in love with an area that has become my home for the past 6 years,” said Baldwin in a press release. “The people of Renton are passionate, involved and diverse in culture. I grew to appreciate the tradition of downtown Renton…. Now I want to help bring back something to the community. The Family First Community Center is just that. A center where the health and wellness of families will be the priority. It’s a grand vision met with a relentless passion to serve the community. And I am so grateful to once again be a part of something great happening in Renton.”

Law and Superintendent Art Jarvis approached Renton School Board on June 22, 2016 with the proposal to build the center on the 17,000 square feet of land next to Cascade Elementary, and was met with a positive reception from the board. Currently it is undecided whether the land will be leased from Renton School District or not. The type of agreement will be based on the types of services that will be provided at the center.

The center aims to provide free educational and recreational opportunities, offer health and fitness programs, as well as have on-site health and wellness programs. It will also aim to have after-school classes and programs, including youth sports, art classes, music classes and technology classes.

The city is also partnering with HealthPoint, a non-profit health center that will help provide health programs and services. Some of the health and wellness programs will include group exercise, cooking classes, personal training, health education, life management and personal training.

Currently the city is looking to build an approximate 25,000-26,000 square foot facility, and estimates it will be a $15 million project. The center will include a gymnasium, fitness gym, lockers and showers, classrooms, multipurpose rooms and offices.

On Monday, the council authorized up to $4 million for the capital campaign, which includes funds to find a project manager and architectural design work for the center.