Teamwork could form human services campus
July 30, 2013
By Peter Clark
Service organization AtWork! might team up with the Together Center to found a human services campus in the former’s existing facility.
In its effort to bring employment and community service agencies together, the Together Center, in Redmond, has had plans to established a location that could house multiple resources for all people. Housing, job placement and medical services are just a few of the things it hopes to bring into such a facility.
“We’ve been looking for property for years,” Together Center Executive Director Pam Mauk said. Though the two organizations have only been communicating for a few months, she said their common goals could mean cooperation. “We are both in discussions. The missions of AtWork! and Together Center could work together at that site.”
The site in question is AtWork!’s operations center, at 690 N.W. Juniper St., which the two groups are considering to expand. Mauk said present talks revolve around whether the creation of such a joint facility would assist both groups in their respective missions.
AtWork! Chief Executive Officer Chris Brandt said the organization has had a long-term lease from the city on the land and it has resided there for almost 30 years. Though the organization still plans to continue its current work with the community, it is interested in how it could deliver more.
“Our focus has changed to a degree,” Brandt said. “We’re exploring the potential of whether it makes sense for AtWork! to partner with the Together Center and the city.”
Currently, the building is home to recycling operations and services for people with various disabilities. Brandt said AtWork! officials wish to expand those offerings, and the partnership with Together Center could realize that goal.
Six months ago, she had lunch with leaders from the other organization and they discussed the difficulty the Together Center was having in finding a suitable location for a campus.
“As we were talking, I thought, ‘Is there an opportunity for us to partner here?’” Brandt said.
Should an expansion move forward, she said AtWork! does not intend to change what it brings to Issaquah.
“We want to improve rather than diminish what we bring,” she said. “We want it to be known that this is where people with disabilities go.”
Together Center board member and former Issaquah City Councilman John Rittenhouse has worked for a long time, both within the city and through the organization, to see such a campus realized.
“It started out six or seven years ago, to see if there is any interest in bringing any location here in Issaquah,” he said. “We think it will be a win-win for the city and the region.”
His focus is on creating a place for multiple service providers to bring a wealth of benefits for the local area.
“There’s typically a variety of organizations that take an opportunity like this,” Rittenhouse said, explaining that it was too early to determine what type of agencies they could expect to house on a prospective campus. Once square footage is determined, he said that would be clearer.
“We envision it as an evolving resource, much like a commercial building would be,” he said. “We expect that it will be an organic facility that will evolve with the needs of the community.”
So far, the two entities are moving forward tentatively as they explore the possibility of a joint campus. There is no set timeline, though rough estimations exist.
“I would like to be able to see a detailed agenda plan for a process to request funds for this build out by the end of the year.” Rittenhouse said, adding that he was hoping to approach the City Council with an update in the next couple of weeks.
Mauk said that there have already been pro bono conceptual drawings drafted by architects to help envision what the campus could look like.
“What’s been done is both the boards have signed a letter of intent to explore,” Mauk said. “We are getting into the nitty gritty and we might meet both of our needs.”