After a year in planning and months of frustrating delay, a privately operated center for Glendale teen-agers may become a reality early next year.
Backers of the Glendale Teen Center said they cleared their last major obstacle last week by signing a five-year lease for 2,600 square feet of office space on the edge of the city's central business district.
The vacant site at 807 N. Central Ave. will require only minor modifications and could open as early as January, said Sheila Ellis, a founder and president of the nonprofit Glendale Teen Support Center Inc., which will operate the facility.
The center will be open after school weekdays and Saturdays as a supervised, drug- and alcohol-free hangout for teen-agers and governed by the teen-agers under adult supervision, Ellis said.
It will be equipped with recreational equipment such as pool and Ping-Pong tables, a study room, a TV room and a conversation room. Applicants are being reviewed for two adult positions, program director and administrative director, Ellis said.
Teen-agers will help run the center through a Young Persons' Council made up of 15 Glendale-area students.
Backers said the center is needed to provide a safe gathering place for youngsters who have few opportunities for recreation in the city.
"We think it's an idea whose time has come," said board member Rae Berry, who is also a trustee of Glendale Community College. "Where can a high school teen-ager go that is drug-free, alcohol-free? You can't go to the bowling alley.
"You know, there just isn't anyplace that is not a membership thing that you have to be a certain kind of a person to get in. We're trying to do something for the rest of the teen-agers."
As part of the lengthy planning, members of the teen center's youth council have been meeting weekly for nearly two years with Ellis and Judy Yager, psychologist for the Glendale Unified School District, to learn peer counseling and leadership skills, Ellis said.
"I would say without question, the driving force from the very beginning has always been the teen-agers," Ellis said.
With its governing structure in place, the organization set out last spring in search of a facility, planning to open by fall. The search turned out to be long and frustrating, with negotiations on several properties failing.
Eventually, the building on North Central Avenue came to the group by a quirk. Ellis said she spotted the vacant site when the building it shares with a chiropractic office was put up for sale.
"I drove by it many times and said, 'Wouldn't that be wonderful?' " Ellis said.
She called the agent for owner Donald Barlow to ask if he would consider renting. A couple of months later, he decided he would.
The lease provides for an initial rent of $2,500 per month, rising to $3,500 after five years, Ellis said.
The agreement now puts the center on the spot financially. The delay in finding a suitable facility also brought its fund-raising effort to a halt because potential corporate and foundation donors would not act upon the group's proposals without knowing where the center would be, Ellis said.
Consequently, the center will open with only a small fraction of its projected $135,000 annual budget in hand. The group has about $9,000 in the bank and a commitment of $20,000 from Glendale.
Ellis said, however, that the group's grant campaign is being geared up again and that organizers are confident of acquiring the money.
"Those people have always been there for us," she said. "They've just been waiting to see what the site implications were."