UYC breaks ground on addition


The Urbana Youth Center (UYC) broke ground for its long-planned addition during a ceremony on July 26.

UYC leaders anticipate the expansion effort will receive a total of $2.5 million in capital funds from the state of Ohio, with $1.75 million already committed.

The funding for the building addition is coming from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services as part of their efforts to fund physical building initiatives across the state that support the development of resilient young people, according to UYC Founder and Executive Director Justin Weller.

The project is expected to take 12 to 24 months to complete.

“While receiving this money is tremendously humbling, it is important to remember that it does not support operations and programming at the Urbana Youth Center,” Weller said. The state capital funding can only be used for the building project.

“Thanks to support from the state of Ohio, UYC was able to acquire its building and the non-profit, public charity is now the sole owner of the property. This is a major milestone for UYC and one that helps ensure its longevity as a fixture of the community,” Weller said.

The UYC is part of GrandWorks, a local foundation that has been instrumental in the revitalization of the Gloria Theatre.

The UYC is located in the former Champaign County Library building at 160 W. Market St. in Urbana.

UYC’s existing building ownership was transferred from Tomorrow Holdings to the UYC in early July for $257,800 in a quit claim deed transaction. Tomorrow Holdings LLC had purchased the property in October of 2020 for $169,900, according to the Champaign County Auditor’s office online records. Shortly after the UYC opened and near the end of 2021 the expansion plans were unveiled during a presentation in the UYC auditorium.

Weller said a third-party appraiser valued the property at $460,000 prior to the recent sale and the state approved the acquisition, which are all requirements for capital funds to be utilized, he explained. Improvements have steadily been made to the property since it was purchased in 2020 for use as a youth center.

“All of this was important to make sure the youth center was able to acquire the property at a substantial discount from fair market value and for this acquisition to be completed prior to the expansion,” Weller said. “This allows UYC to be in possession of a very valuable asset upon completion of the expansion project.”

Revenue sought to operate the UYC

Weller said operational funds continue to be a priority. UYC has requested financial support from the Champaign County commissioners, the local department of Job & Family Services, Urbana City Schools, and the City of Urbana.

As of July 2023, UYC receives no money from any local government entity.

“Nearly all of our funding comes from local businesses and individuals. Long-term, this must change to secure the future of UYC,” Weller said.

To that end, the GrandWorks Foundation Board of Directors established an Urbana Youth Center Community Stakeholder Committee and appointed Adam Sorensen — Executive Director of the Mental Health, Drug, and Alcohol Services Board of Logan and Champaign Counties — as the chairperson. The committee will exist for a limited time and the purpose is, “to bring together key stakeholders in government and organizations throughout the community to identify the long-term obstacles to the Urbana Youth Center sustainability and develop a plan to ensure ongoing success,” according to the Board of Directors document outlining its creation.

Weller said Urbana Mayor Bill Bean, Urbana City Schools Superintendent Charles Thiel, all three county commissioners, Judge Lori Reisinger and Director Stacy Cox of JFS are among the many community leaders who have been invited to participate on the committee. The first official meeting is scheduled for today at 2 p.m. in Conference Room B at the Champaign County Community Building and anyone is welcome to attend.

“UYC is committed to openness and transparency,” Weller said. “We always welcome feedback and invite any community member with questions to feel free to set up a tour of UYC. To further improve accessibility of information, UYC will be making its Policy & Procedure Handbook – which informs the staff’s training and decisions – available on our website. Likewise, we will also publish our Program Supplement, which includes the outline for all programs currently offered at UYC.”

Weller said membership at UYC “remains robust and we expect to have 60-90 students in attendance most nights the center is open this fall.”

Membership remains free to students in grades 6-12 who attend or live in the Urbana City School District.

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