Woodmen Valley Chapel’s plans to move its Southwest campus and offices to the Westside Community Center anger some neighbors | News

A group of neighbors, who submitted a bid to become the new operator of the Westside Community Center in Colorado Springs but were rejected, are now opposing the city’s first-choice plans.

The Center for Strategic Ministry, a nonprofit community organization in Woodmen Valley Chapel, intends to relocate the southwest campus and offices of the nondenominational church to the community center, in accordance with its proposal.

The City of Colorado Springs Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services announced in December that after reviewing an undisclosed number of requests for proposals as part of another phase of the search for a new operator, a committee recommends that the Center for Strategic Ministry be maintained in its role. .

For 12 years, the Center for Strategic Ministry has operated the community center, a large, redeveloped elementary school campus with three buildings. The organization had informed the city in late 2019 that it would not renew the contract, which was due to expire last month, but then submitted a proposal to do so, after the city said two other proposals had failed.

Woodmen Valley Chapel will relocate one of its four Colorado Springs campuses and local offices to the community center, Stu Davis, chairman of the board of the Center for Strategic Ministry and Woodmen City Impact pastor, said Monday. Valley Chapel.

But that wouldn’t make the community center a “church campus,” he said.

The organization will also preserve the site’s primary function as a community center, continuing to offer a variety of fitness, cultural and service programs for children, families and seniors, the proposal states.

Three other churches have rented space over the past 12 years and held services at the community center, Davis said. Another church, Westside Oaks, currently locates its offices there, he said.

“Nobody complained,” Davis said of the other churches on campus.

But having the future long-term operator of the community center hold Sunday services for the Woodmen Valley Chapel Southwest Campus and the satellite office headquarters there is different from renting space by independent churches. , say the board members of Creative Community Solutions. The nonprofit formed last year out of a grassroots movement called Save the Westside Community Center.

“Our real issue is that the community center should be inclusive, and clearly the city’s chosen entity doctrine is very narrow,” said Richard Nee, board member of Creative Community Solutions.

“They say their goal is to create disciples of Jesus Christ; it’s not a bad statement, but it’s not a diverse statement,” he said. “We have people in the neighborhood who are not Christians and might find this offensive.”

Davis said he thinks the setup will be the same as renting space to other churches, but he understands the concerns and has met with several neighborhood organizations to discuss the issue and help address their concerns.

“The most important part of our proposal is that the community center will remain a community center,” he said, adding that the intention of moving the southwest campus is to help attract more volunteers to the community Center.

“The goal is not to run programs from the community center buildings that serve the church,” he said, “but to strengthen the programs and enable them to serve more people and to bring more volunteerism, participation and visibility on campus”.

A handful of employees from the Southwest Campus office will be located on campus, and about 100 people attend one of the two services each Sunday, Davis said. The congregation currently holds two Sunday services at a charter school on South Corona Avenue and rents office space in a separate commercial building.

“I know there are concerns about parking and congestion, and while Woodmen Valley Chapel has larger campuses in town, it’s a very different operation,” Davis said of the Southwest Campus.

Some members of the Save the Westside community center said they would address the city council about it on Tuesday.

“We would like the city to know that there is still a community that represents our neighbors to the west, and that we are diverse and inclusive,” said Liz Carver, executive director of Creative Community Solutions. “Because the community center is in our neighborhood and belongs to our city, we want our voices to be heard.”

The proposal that Creative Community Solutions submitted to the city in its bid to become the new operator of the community center included elements such as running the center with volunteers, decision-making by the community and not by the operator, the improving programming and expanding food distribution to the needy.

The relocation of the Southwest Campus to Woodmen Valley Chapel will not occur until negotiations for a new 15-year contract between the city and the Center for Strategic Ministry are underway, Davis said.

Although the Center for Strategic Ministry is the recommended operator of the Westside Community Center, the contract is “still under review” and has not yet been signed, city spokeswoman Jennifer Schreuder said.

The city’s procurement process does not allow city staff to comment until the operating agreement is finalized, she added.

A new contract does not need city council approval but must have administrative approval, she said, of Mayor John Suthers and/or Chief of Staff Jeff Greene.

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