Organizers of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center of St. Louis plan to open their doors in a new spot by by Jan. 1.
They're looking to buy their own building. The wish list includes a space four times the size of the approximately 2,000 square-foot location they were renting at 4337 Manchester Ave. in The Grove.
For nearly three years, the LGBT Center worked out of that building under a lease-purchase agreement. But the center’s board decided the operation required more space, better parking and other features. It moved out in April after the building was sold, but continues to offer a phone service with volunteers answering calls every day.
Board president Dara Strickland told St. Louis Public Radio that even in the internet age, it’s critical to have a physical presence in the community. Not all senior LGBT residents are computer-savvy. And even people who have online access may benefit from an in-person interaction.
“They want someone to not only help them find the resources they need but to give a recommendation and connect to, personally,” Strickland said.
Incubator, Wedding Space, Performance Venue
Strickland said a larger LGBT Center will allow expansion of its efforts as an incubator for emerging organizations.
“One of the biggest concerns for a program just starting out is, 'Where will we meet, is it going to be consistent, where will we get the mail, can we get copies and how much does that cost?'” Strickland said. “Those are things the center has been providing on sort of an ad-hoc basis.”
Groups that were launched under the center’s 501(c)3 status include the Metro Trans Umbrella Group and the LGBT History Project. The History Project is now operating as a program of the Missouri History Museum.
The LGBT Center is looking for a building with a performance space that can hold 150 to 200 people. More room will be more conducive to a variety of events, only some of which were able to squeeze into the tight quarters of the old space.
“We had holiday dinners, performances — a full-scale production of ‘Avenue Q' — talent shows, wedding receptions, baby showers,” Strickland said. “People started to use it more like a community center, like the Richmond Heights Community Center or the Brentwood Community Center.”
Many events that might be held at a center with more square footage are now being booked at hotels, banquet rooms and other larger spaces. The ability to schedule and charge for more events would be a way for the LGBT Center to sustain itself.
“If we have a space that’s a community space, that’s a resource that stays in the community and continues to enrich it,” Strickland said.
The LGBT Center will have a booth at PrideFest, to be held June 28-29 at Soldiers Memorial in downtown St. Louis.