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Youth community center gets thumbs-up

Youth Music Project plans to move into church space


Future rockers, pop stars and country crooners will soon have a larger home to grow in West Linn.

The West Linn Planning Commission, during its Dec. 5 meeting, approved a conditional use permit for a youth community center operated by Youth Music Project.

The center will be located at the former Willamette Falls Christian Church at Willamette Falls Drive and 10th Street. The 12,385-square-foot space is currently being used by a call center that is moving to Wilsonville. There, the organization could accommodate up to 1,000 kids a week, according to Youth Music Project Executive Director Charles Lewis.

The Youth Music Project is currently housed across the street in a small, cramped space and is bursting at the seams. The nonprofit teaches drums, guitar and piano to students primarily in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, but also attracts students from Lake Oswego, Oregon City and Tualatin.

Funded by the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation, Youth Music Project aims to bring pop, rock and country music to all students.

Youth Music Project launched in January with overwhelming success. All of its summer classes sold out, and this fall more than 240 children are participating in private lessons and group classes.

The new location is planned to offer youth music instruction, group lessons, private lessons, bands and day camps in 20 classrooms. There will also be a store selling musical accessories, a waiting area for adults and a coffee shop.

Lewis said Youth Music Project hopes to also partner with other community groups, such as dance groups, to use the space. The space could also be used for performances in the evening for concerts and open mic nights by the community.

Planning commissioners welcomed the project but had concerns about traffic flow and potential noise issues.

Planning Commission Chairman Michael Babbitt said, “The noise is a concern of mine. I see this no different than any other business. Quite frankly, noise is noise.”

Lewis pointed out that the project received unanimous support from the Willamette Neighborhood Association.

“The community is pretty excited about the things we’re offering,” Lewis told commissioners.

Youth Music Project is working with Iselin Architects on the design. Though the church was built in 1961, the group hopes to give the building some of the historic charm of Willamette Falls Drive. Youth Music Project is also applying for a grant through the county to help restore the front on the church.

Commissioner Russell Axelrod called the church’s location the gateway entrance to the Willamette district and wanted to see the building refurbished on the outside.

“To me, this is really an opportunistic corner there,” he said. “Yet that building is real tired looking. It’s not real inviting.”

Youth Music Project representatives said plans are in the works to address the outside of the building once the inside is complete. The plans inside include transforming the sanctuary into a top-notch performance hall, complete with acoustics, lighting, video cameras and a moveable stage.

On top of its current administrative staff of three and seven instructors, the project also offers paid internships for high school students.

The planning commission unanimously approved the conditional use permit.

For more information about Youth Music Project, visit youthmusicproject.org.




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