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New hangout for teens?

Group working to secure space for a teen center in Cascade Summit
by: Vern Uyetake Formerly a Blockbuster Video, this space within the Cascade Summit shopping center on Salamo Road in West Linn is being considered as a teen center or a Chase Bank location. As of press time, it was unknown what decision had been made.

UPDATE: According to Willamette Christian Church Executive Director Chris Yarco, ROIC officially rescinded its offer to Chase Bank for the former blockbuster space on Feb. 15, and the church entered into an agreement through a letter of intent Feb. 16. Yarco said the church anticipates receiving a lease for full review and formally signing it next week.

AS ORIGINALLY REPORTED:

West Linn City Councilor Mike Jones is not joking when he says he is 'outcome oriented.'

Just weeks after expressing concern about Rosemont Ridge Middle School students loitering after school in the parking lot of the Safeway on Salamo Road, a new teen center may be opening in the Cascade Summit shopping area.

Jones hosted a meeting Feb. 13 at city hall to discuss the issue of students hanging out at the shopping center. Representatives from the city, the police department, the school and the school district, Willamette Christian Church, Safeway and the property managers of the vacant space proposed for the teen center all attended the meeting.

It was announced at the meeting that Willamette Christian Church is attempting to lease a space in the shopping area, which formerly housed Blockbuster Video, in order to open an after-school drop-in teen center.

Middle schoolers have hung out out at Safeway and the surrounding businesses since Cascade Summit opened. Several attempts have been made to deter kids from congregating there, but all have had limited success.

'On Friday afternoons and on early release days at Rosemont Ridge Middle School, teenagers congregate at the Cascade Summit Shopping Center. They are good kids exhibiting the behavior that early teenagers exhibit. That being said, there are so many of them, they interfere with other folks' shopping and at times do use inappropriate behavior,' Jones wrote in a memo to the meeting participants.

Safeway manager Monica Kirk acknowledged her store's struggles with the students, saying that some customers have told her they refuse to shop there during certain times.

'Summer is a nightmare for me. The destruction is hard to deal with,' she said, explaining that kids routinely make messes in the store's outdoor and indoor seating areas. 'It's really bad.'

Kirk said that, last Friday, two students were riding their bikes in the dairy section of the store and put shoppers at risk when they carried the bikes out of the store over their heads.

'I know they're good kids,' Kirk said. 'It's a fine line when you want them but don't know what to do with them.'

Although no one was quick to say a teen center would completely solve the issue, they were optimistic that it would be a step in the right direction.

Members from the church met with John Wynton, a representative from the Retail Opportunity Investments Corp., which manages Cascade Summit, on Feb. 11.

Although the former Blockbuster space is currently vacant, Chase Bank holds an option to lease the space. After talking with the church, Wynton gave Chase until the end of Wednesday to either take action or relinquish the space.

'We see this as an amenity to the community as well as a welcome thing to the merchants of the shopping center, Wynton said.

The space may be the perfect fit for Willamette Christian Church, which was already seeking additional space to use for Sunday mornings.

According to Chris Yarco, the church's executive director, the church would like to lease the space for its own use on Sunday mornings and would then open it up for community use during the week.

'That's very, very exciting,' Jones said. 'I would be very, very comfortable if we could work as a community to get the kids in there.'

'This is where the fun begins,' Yarco said.

Although the space is not yet secured, the group's discussion quickly turned to what the center would look like, how it would function, who would run it and who could attend it.

'We want it to be a place (the kids) adopt, they find attractive and use,' Yarco said. 'We want it to be a place where the kids in the community are served.'

Assistant City Manager Chris Kerr asked what necessary elements should be a part of such a center.

'What they want is really simple; they want a place to hang out,' Ken Warner, the city's recreation director, said. 'They don't want hovering supervision.'

Attendees at the Feb. 13 meeting all agreed to get students involved in the process to create a space where they would want to hang out. Several people stressed the need to remember the kids in general are good and not problems to be fixed.

'You need to find ways to respond to them to show we are on their team, not their adversaries,' Rosemont Ridge Assistant Principal Kurt Schultz said.

West Linn High School school resource officer Mike Francis said there is a good model of an after-school center in Southeast Portland - sort of a 'coffee shop for kids.'

'They get absolutely packed,' said Francis, adding the center gets between 150 and 400 kids after school. 'They don't need games. They want space to talk, to be themselves and interact.'

Rosemont Ridge Middle School Principal Debi Briggs-Crispin warned that, although a teen center would speak to some students, others would still prefer to be independent. The level of supervision in a teen center was also discussed. When the church attempted to hold an after-school program, it found students did not want the direct supervision and did not want to have to sign in and out of the building each day.

'Who is ultimately responsible for that child at that time?' West Linn-Wilsonville Superintendent Bill Rhoades asked. 'This creates a kind of unique situation.'

'Supervision is a real challenge,' Briggs-Crispin said. 'It's a conundrum.'

In order to show the Cascade Summit property owner the level of support for the proposed teen center, Wynton asked meeting attendees to submit letters of support to him.

'It's a much larger involvement … than I had anticipated,' Wynton said.

'We're going to be careful not to bite off more than we can chew,' Yarco said. 'We are committed to this community. We're hopeful this will pass.'

It was unknown at press time whether or not Chase Bank had made a decision regarding the former Blockbuster space.




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