The Bridgeview Education and Employment Resource Center is beginning construction on “an act of faith,” as state Rep. Sharon Wylie put it. That faith is placed in the state Legislature, which will need to pass a capital budget that includes money for the $3.9 million project.
“We’re determined that faith will not be misplaced, that we’ll move forward and do the right things to help people in our community,” said Wylie, D-Vancouver, adding that “we couldn’t do this if we weren’t optimists. We’ll have, when it passes, the best capital budget for the state of Washington that’s ever been, in my opinion.”
Although there’s no capital budget yet, construction will start in the next month on the center using a $1.7 million bridge loan from Heritage Bank that the boards for Vancouver Housing Authority and Bridgeview approved earlier this year. The loan, which is backed by the housing authority, will fill the funding gap until the capital budget is resolved.
Nearly $2.2 million has been raised for the project. Jan Wichert, executive director of Bridgeview, said she hopes to get $1.2 million from the Legislature, and that the remaining $500,000 would be raised through a community campaign.
So, what happens if the state doesn’t give the nonprofit the full $1.2 million?
“We’ll probably go back and ask again,” Wichert said.
The 8,500-square-foot center in central Vancouver aims to be a one-stop shop for services and supports that low-income households may otherwise have to zigzag across the county to access. A groundbreaking ceremony Monday celebrated the start of construction.
“This particular project is easy to love,” Wylie said. “It uses the best practices and the best of our community to help people become self-sufficient, to connect the community resources to the people who need them in a way that’s efficient and effective.”
WorkSource, Goodwill Job Connections and Lighthouse Credit Union will all have permanent space at Bridgeview. There will be other offices, classrooms and computer labs for other agencies; about 25 plan to have a presence at Bridgeview, Wichert said.
“Clearly, the passage of this capital budget is important. It’s important for Bridgeview and the families we serve, but it’s more than that. The capital budget funds jobs and schools and parks and services — all that benefit Washington families,” she said. “It’s really reassuring to know that the elected representatives from Clark County understand this urgency and will continue to do all that they can to come to a positive resolution.”
Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said there was a tentative agreement on the capital budget. However, the two parties reached an impasse over how to resolve a court decision on rural water use, and as a result, did not pass the budget. Harris said he’s committed to sending letters to the governor, speaker of the House and the majority and minority leaders to resume negotiations.
“I think it’s a matter of getting people back to the table again,” Harris said after the groundbreaking ceremony.
During the legislative session most of the nine members of Clark County’s delegation met weekly to talk about how they could work together and direct funds to the region, including funds for Bridgeview.
“We never wavered on this being a priority for the delegation, including members of the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle,” said Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver. “It’s unfortunate that our capital budget is on pause right now, but we are all committed to making sure that when we do pass that budget our priorities are intact.”
Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, said even those who don’t represent the 49th Legislative District, where Bridgeview is located, prioritized funding for its center. They understood that the project will benefit the broader community.
“We will get a capital budget done. I promise you that,” Cleveland said.
Money from the Legislature is one slice of funding for the center. Bridgeview secured $750,000 from the Legislature as part of the last capital funding bill. Vancouver Housing Authority committed $1 million, money from Community Development Block Grants from the county and city total $250,000, and other donations, including $25,000 from Divine Consign, total $160,000.
Bridgeview has been connecting people to services that focus on employment, education and healthcare since 2012. The idea is that locating the community’s services in a centralized hub makes them more effective. The resource center will share a wall with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington’s Heights O.K. 2 Clubhouse in the center of Vancouver Housing Authority’s Skyline Crest housing complex, so both children and adults can get support.
Vancouver Housing Authority completed renovating housing units at the 20-acre subsidized housing complex earlier this year. Judy McNatt has lived in Skyline Crest for about 40 years.
“We’ve seen some very large, very good improvements,” she said, adding that she’s looking forward to the Bridgeview Education and Employment Resource Center. “I’m all for it.”
The start of construction on Bridgeview, means the housing authority can start on Caples Terrace, a 28-unit apartment complex that will house young adults aging from foster care and young adults who are homeless. It will be built on land currently occupied by the Rise & Stars Community Center at 500 Omaha Way, which is slated to be torn down in November.