Employees, students and parents of the YWCA Head Start program located in the Kevin M. Harvin Center attended the Royal Palm Beach Village Council meeting Thursday, June 21 to ask the council to delay the building’s upcoming demolition.
Royal Palm Beach plans to tear down the building, located at 1030 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. at the front end of Royal Palm Beach Commons Park, due to its deteriorating state.
The building was originally constructed in the 1970s as the sales office for early community developer Royal Palm Beach Colony Inc. Later, the structure served as the village’s first library before becoming a community-centered building that has been home to several nonprofit organizations.
In November 2017, the council decided that fixing the building’s faults would cost more than demolishing it. Also, the council was made aware of its legal responsibilities to the tenants. For example, if the building’s failing air conditioning unit were to finally give out, the village would be legally responsible for fixing it.
Leases at the building were to expire on Feb. 28, but the council extended the YWCA’s lease — as well as that of the building’s other two tenants — until June 30, which would allow the YWCA to end the school year before having to relocate its early children development program.
Though the YWCA was aware of the need to relocate and has been actively looking for a new location that will meet the needs of students, they have not yet finalized a new location.
“June 30 is soon coming up,” said Sheryl Benveniste, director of the Royal Palm Beach Child Development Center. “We definitely are looking for a new location because we want to keep giving these wonderful services to children and families, but we are respectfully asking you to please let us stay in this facility until we get a really good option to make the children comfortable and have a safe environment for everyone.”
Benveniste said she approached the lease-related issue with only one thing in mind: the children who are benefiting every day from the services provided by the YWCA.
“We have children who are really thriving, whether they have disabilities or whether they come to us not speaking English or whether they come from an at-risk family, we are getting them to hopefully succeed in school and really starting them off with a great foundation to be at-level with their peers,” she said. “We’re here, and we’re giving some really great services.”
Mayor Fred Pinto expressed some concern over the YWCA’s ability to find a new location in a timely manner.
“We talked about this six or seven months ago,” he said. “When you say you are working on [finding a new place], are you a few weeks away? I mean, what kind of time frame is it?”
Suzanne Turner, CEO of the YWCA of Palm Beach County, assured Pinto that they are on track for getting a new location, and that the reason for their extension request is due to complications with the licensing process.
“Back when it was decided that the Harvin Center would be closing on June 30, I certainly had no thoughts that I would have to be here tonight,” she said. “I was a little overly optimistic. Due to the expansion out in this part of the county, I thought there would be no problem rapidly finding an appropriate center. I am pleased to say, however, that we have obtained an existing center to lease. Unfortunately, we cannot be approved for a new license until Aug. 8.”
Turner assured the council that their new center will also be in Royal Palm Beach, so that the children and families who depend on their services won’t be too disrupted by the change in location.
“That’s wonderful news, because we don’t want to have these services leave our community,” Pinto said. “It’s a tremendous asset for the citizens that take part in it.”
Some council members also expressed concerns about the many failing aspects of the building and what the consequences of needed repairs would be.
“I don’t mind the extension,” Vice Mayor Selena Smith said. “My only concern is who the responsibility lies on if there were to be anything that goes wrong during that time period.”
Turner agreed with the council that if something, such as the air conditioning, were to break and need repairing, the village will not be responsible for providing the necessary repairs.
The council unanimously voted to approve an extension of the YWCA’s lease until the end of August.
Pinto, however, made it clear that there will be no more extensions or postponements of the building’s demolition.
“Time certain means that [when] we grant this extension, it is absolutely in concrete that Aug. 31 is it, and on Sept. 1, the wrecking ball will come through,” Pinto said. “We just want to be very clear.”
For more information on YWCA programs, call (561) 640-0050 or visit www.ywcapbc.org.