Industrial Garage to Become $3 Million Teen Center
Site located on Aspinwall Avenue in Brookline Village.
Organizers behind a much-anticipated youth center announced last night that they had signed a 25-year lease on an industrial garage on Aspinwall Avenue and plan to open the new facility there by spring 2012.
The Brookline Teen Center is expected to offer a wide variety of academic programs and recreational facilities—including a half basketball court, two-lane candle pin bowling, music studio, game room and café—but is primarily intended as a place where Brookline’s teens can safely “hang out.” The center would be open to all teenagers who live or go to school in Brookline and would require an annual membership fee and behavior pledge.
“What we want to do, more than anything, is to help the teenagers of Brookline navigate the adolescent years safely,” said Paul Epstein, a Brookline High social worker and founder of the Teen Center. “It’s an idea whose time has come—it just makes sense to give kids a place to go and things to do.”
Brookline Patch toured the industrial garage at 40 Aspinwall Avenue last summer, but agreed to not disclose the location until after a lease was negotiated. The Teen Center has leased the top floor of the garage, which measures about 10,000 square feet, and plans to build a small addition to the front that will house a staircase and elevator.
“We could not be more excited about the way our vision translates into this space,” Epstein said.
Organizers say construction will cost more than $3 million and will be paid largely through private donations. The Teen Center is also developing a fundraising campaign, which could include grants and corporate sponsorship, to help pay for day-to-day operations.
Construction is expected to begin this fall and take about eight months.
Last night’s announcement, which was made before a group of neighbors and town leaders in the Pierce School, marks a major milestone in nearly five years of planning and fundraising, led largely by Brookline High students. Epstein, the twin brother of Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, said he made a deliberate effort to engage teens from the beginning.
“We didn’t get some teen input, we let the teens lead the way,’ said Epstein. “We became the facilitators.”
The teens and adult leaders visited youth centers across to find a model that would work best for Brookline. Epstein said Brookline’s center would likely be staffed an executive director, two programming directors and a variety part-time specialized staff members.
The center is meant provide a combination of structured events and programs alongside a variety of unstructured “hangout” activities. It would likely be open six days a week, with special programming on Friday and Saturday nights. Academic support and service opportunities would also be provide through partnerships with other Brookline organizations, including the Brookline Schools.
The center will be open to all seventh- through 12th-graders who live or go to school in Brookline. Teens will be required to sign a behavior contract and pay annual membership fees, which Epstein said would be similar to the cost of going to a movie once a month. Financial aid would also be made available.
“No kid would ever be not a member of the Teen Center for financial reasons,” Epstein said. “It just won’t happen.”
Neighbors brought up a number of concerns at last night’s meeting, especially related to traffic, noise and the impact of the center on nearby rental properties and home values. Organizers promised to work with residents to address any concerns and said they planned to hold communities meetings at every school community in Brookline as they prepare to bring their proposal to the Planning Board this spring.
“We don’t go away after tonight,’ said Tom Mendelsohn, the interim executive director of the center.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article was amended to correct the expected construction cost of the Teen Center.