CLEVELAND, Ohio - The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland broke ground on its new facility in the Gordon Square Arts District on Wednesday.
The original co-founders, John Nosek and Leon Stevens, were fifth in the nation to open a LGBT Center when they opened in the 1970's.
“We incorporated an organization called GEAR -- gay education, awareness and resources,” said Nosek.
Nosek and Stevens said Cleveland was never an anti-gay city, but they still had a lot of work to do.
“At that time, gay marriage was way beyond the horizon, maybe on the dark side of the moon,” said Stevens. “Besides bringing the gay community together, our other focus was to educate straight people, specifically to let them know that we weren't criminals and sociopaths that just needed to be locked up.”
Executive Director Phyllis Harris said the center’s new home will be a visible, tangible symbol of hope and pride.
“We have opportunities to rent our space to other organizations and individuals who want to host community events, personal events like weddings and baby showers,” said Harris.
The new 12,000+ square foot facility will also be LEED Silver Certified, feature flexible meetings rooms and a small business incubator. It will also include the David Bohnett Cyber Center, free public WiFi, a large community drop-in space and resource center, full kitchen, rooftop patio, and a street-level entrance, which will be more accessible for the disabled.
Current and past leaders of the LGBT Center said they want to truly thank their generous donors.
“We're thrilled to see where the center is today,” said Nosek. “(In the past) We were lucky to have three months of rent in our bank accounts to keep the center going, and there were worst times with the center, because of a lack of location that we had to operate out of people’s homes.”
Construction of the new center was made possible by an anonymous donor, who contributed nearly $5 million. Now the center will own its property for the first time.
The LGBT Center will be sustained in the future with a $1 million endowment made by ‘The Milton and Tamar Maltz Family Foundation’ and also the investments of hundreds of donors.