The NorthStar Foundation's new after-school center for boys will open on time and on budget in May, says foundation President Scott Hazelrigg.
Contractors are doing finish work on the 34,500-square-foot structure at the Omaha Home for Boys campus near 49th Street and Ames Avenue, he said.
They recently completed the 14,000-square-foot gym floor and plan to install a climbing wall the third week in March. They are also working on cabinetry and other details in office spaces and classrooms.
Exterior doors and windows are in place, Hazelrigg said. Kiewit Corp. is the builder.
The center will focus on academic achievement; athletics and healthy lifestyles; adventure and experiential learning; arts immersion, and employment readiness with boys from fifth through 12th grades. It will be the first all-male after-school facility in Omaha.
Last week, the nonprofit foundation hired Debra Johnson as the center's director of programming. She previously was the director of programs and operations at the Hope Center for Kids.
As part of the north Omaha community for more than 10 years, “Deb has been extremely successful in creating and developing programs to impact youth,” said Jannette Taylor, former executive director of Impact One, a nonprofit anti-gang group.
“I do not believe there is a better candidate for this position,” Taylor said in a press release.
Criminal activity — notably gang violence — has plagued the neighborhood near the center, which includes Fontenelle Park and the area in which 5-year-old Payton Benson was recently killed by an errant bullet as she ate breakfast.
Hazelrigg said the center can make a difference because it is focused on young men, the core population most at risk for engaging in gang behavior and committing crimes or being victims.
Its programs can help youths become leaders — “five, 10, 15 years from now,” he said. “That systematically needs to happen and can happen. We have great young people and great families.”
In addition to the center's opening, Hazelrigg said, eliminating three dead-end streets, the opening of Walmart near 52nd and Ames and the repurposing of Fontenelle Park will help revitalize the area.
NorthStar chose the site for the center so that it would be a seven-minute ride for 1,325 boys.
The NorthStar program will serve supper to its boys each weekday. Hazelrigg said installation of kitchen equipment will be the final task before the center is finished the first week in May.
The first public event will be a ribbon-cutting on May 8, followed by an open house and a weekend of activities and events.
A fundraising campaign for the center is on target, he said, though he won't make another announcement with a total until opening weekend.
He anticipates that a $13.8 million capital campaign will reach its goal. In addition to funding the new center for boys, the campaign will fund road work in the area and a multipurpose field.