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Library and YMCA May Buy Tri-City Jewish Center

the Tri-City Jewish Center on 30th Street in Rock Island

Two organizations hoping to improve their services in Rock Island have joined forces. The Two Rivers YMCA and the Rock Island Library are now studying whether they can afford to buy the Tri-City Jewish Center on 30th Street.

Herb Trix has more.

Credit WVIK News
Two Rivers YMCA CEO Mike Wennekamp and Rock Island Library Director Angela Campbell

Library Director Angela Campbell says the library board has been looking at a variety of alternatives for several years, ranging from expanding the main library downtown to turning downtown into a branch, and moving the main library to the Jewish Center. 

"The genesis of this whole project was back in 2014 when our strategic plan first wanted us to study how we can increase the size of the 30-31 library. The downtown library was never thought to go anywhere but through that study we found there was a segment of the population that wanted only something in the 30-31 neighborhood."

But the 30-31 branch was built to be a fire station and not a library - it's only real advantage was its location. 

Meanwile the Two Rivers Y was looking for a suitable location in Rock Island, according to CEO Mike Wennekamp.

"Probably dating back to the late 2,000's around 2010-ish, we had community leaders who were saying that a Y facility would be beneficial to the community of Rock Island, not necessarily to replace or compete with the needs of other social service agencies or facilities but more so to compliment. "

So the Y also began looking at the Jewish Center but concluded it was too big, Wennekamp says, unless it could find someone to share it with.

"Collaborations in general have become more and more popular even those that are facility-related collaborations. You can even see here in the Quad Cities where there are YMCA-hospital collaborations, YMCA-school collaborations."

And the model for collaborations, according to Campbell, at least for libraries, is in San Antonio Texas. 

"It happened around 2016 and 2017 that they collaborated on a building - it's a lot bigger building and the library is a lot smaller than ours but they put the groundwork in place and so we've been using that as a model. I talked to one of their people actually last week about it, and she couldn't say enough great things about the collaboration other than she really wished they had more room because it's so popular."
Campbell and Wennekamp say the library will use about 10,000 square feet in the center, they'll share 2,000 to 4,000 for a lobby and mechanical space, then the Y will use about 20,000 square feet. 

"For us to have large community events - we've never had that option at our 30-31 library and when we were studying expanding at that location the big stumbling block was there's no parking whereas this has definitely a lot of parking. So if we were to offer a large event we would have the space to host it and we would have the parking for it."

"The primary purposes for our using the building include the income-based membership that the Y is known for - that would serve a lot people within the Rock Island community and surrounding area. And there's a small gymnasium that already exists in the building so we would have a minor renovation of that space. There's plenty of room for exercise programs and classes."

"Really the unique thing that attracted the Y to the Jewish Center specifically, in addition to location, is that they have probably one of the most contemporary commercial kitchens in a social service building on this side of the river. The YMCA serves roughtly 1,500 meals and snacks a day, to kids in after school programs and during the summer months it's up towards 2,400 meals a day. And we do that currently out of three more or less small satellite kitchens. And this kitchen would allow us to centralize those services."

Officially, the Two Rivers Y would buy the Tri-City Jewish Center and lease space to the Rock Island Library. The estimated cost is 7.26 million dollars which includes buying the property, and converting the space for both organizations.

Results of the feasibility study on raising that money, are expected by the end of the year.

A spokesman says the congregation will find a new location for services in the Quad Cities, if the Y and library decide to buy the center. 

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois.