Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Northwest Indiana officially broke ground last month on the construction of its new $9 million Valparaiso Boys & Girls Club. Construction of the new Club, located at 708 Evans Avenue just south of Butterfield Pavilion in Fairgrounds Park, is scheduled to be completed by summer of 2022.
The groundbreaking came after a press conference in March in which Boys & Girls Clubs President and CEO Ryan Smiley announced the organization and Urschel Development Corporation (UDC) had reached an agreement to facilitate an exchange of properties. UDC will acquire the current Valparaiso Club and property in exchange for the eight-acre lot on Evans.
“We are very excited about this partnership with the Boys & Girls Club,” Rick Urschel, President of UDC, said. “The Club has been a cornerstone for the Valparaiso community for decades, and we were thrilled to be able to offer the property on Evans for the new Club.”
The current Valparaiso Boys & Girls Club resides in the Gardner School building at 354 Jefferson. Smiley said the school, first built in 1899, is an important part of the history of Valparaiso, but a facilities assessment conducted in 2018 revealed over $2 million in maintenance costs just to maintain current operations. Along with a layout that limited the potential to serve more kids each day, the organization knew it was time to look elsewhere. They found an eager partner in Urschel.
“We are equally excited to add to our portfolio such a unique and interesting piece of Valparaiso history. The company has deep roots in the greater Valparaiso area, and we would hate to see something detrimental happen to the Gardner School building,” Urschel said. “Although we are still in the infancy of developing a long-term strategy for the property, there is one item at the top of the list: preserve the history and character of the existing Gardner School.”
Valparaiso Boys & Girls Club is currently celebrating 50 years serving Valpo youth. First opened in 1971 in the basement of First Presbyterian Church, the Club moved to the Gardner School building in December 1972. Smiley noted the rich support Boys & Girls Clubs has had for generations in the community.
“I’m a Valpo resident, and I know how much the people who live here care about their community and, more importantly, the kids of their community,” Smiley said. “This is an unbelievable partnership and opportunity for our Club, the City of Valparaiso, youth and their families.”
A capital campaign steering committee co-chaired by Urschel and Rob Thorgren has been tasked with raising the $9 million in funding for the construction. To date, Boys & Girls Clubs has raised $6.73 million.
When complete, the new Valparaiso Club will offer Valpo kids a centrally located, state-of-the-art facility. In addition to traditional Boys & Girls Club programming areas like a games room, STEM lab and art room, the new Club will feature two full-size gymnasiums, a two-story rock climbing wall, digital music recording studio, Exergaming fitness room, teaching kitchen and cafeteria, and a dedicated teen room.
The organization hired Shive-Hattery as architects, Tonn & Blank Construction as general contractor, and Development Visions Group as the civil engineers.
“Part of our Great Futures 2025 strategic plan is looking at all of our Club facilities. It is our goal to renovate, modernize or build facilities that our Club kids can feel proud of. This opportunity to work with UDC for a new Valparaiso Club is amazing,” Smiley said. “We want to keep providing youth with unbelievable opportunities during out-of-school-time, and we want to provide such opportunities in an environment where they can have fun and feel safe. Building a new Valparaiso Club is for the kids of this community because they deserve much more than what our original building can offer.”
About Urschel Development Corporation: Urschel Development Corporation (UDC) was created in the 1970 s as a wholly owned subsidiary of Urschel Laboratories, Inc. and the real estate branch of Urschel. UDC’s first project was the development of Vale Park Village apartments in Valparaiso. Today, UDC focuses on commercial, multi-family, and community development projects.