Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 | 2 a.m.
After years of being hidden in a nondescript shopping center in the central valley, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada’s new building will be hard to miss when it opens later this year.
The nonprofit group, known informally as The Center, plans to spend about $4 million to transform a former flooring supplies warehouse situated prominently on Maryland Parkway in downtown Las Vegas into its new headquarters, tripling the size of The Center’s current office space and providing room to continue expanding its services.
“We’ll be more visible to the LGBT community, but we’ll also be more visible to the rest of the community,” said Stephanie Rosol, president of The Center’s board of directors, after a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday.
Construction on the new building, dubbed the Robert L. Forbuss Building, will start immediately and is scheduled to be completed before the end of the year.
“We start swinging hammers today, and we plan to move in in the beginning of December, followed by a grand opening in January,” Rosol said.
There’s still more than $1 million left to raise for the building’s capital campaign, but Rosol said the strong support the organization has seen from the business community and individual donors makes her confident it will meet its goal.
Since its founding in 1993, The Center has provided a range of services to Las Vegas’ lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, including free testing for sexually transmitted diseases, support groups, social groups and a free youth clinic.
The Center’s current space, near Sahara Avenue and Maryland Parkway, is only 6,000 square feet, limiting the staff size and the number of people who can receive services, Rosol said.
The new building will cover 16,000 square feet and include outdoor courtyards, a dedicated clinic, a café and common area, a technology center and office space.
The agency’s eight staff members and countless volunteers helped 30,000 people last year, a number that will increase with the new building, Rosol said.
“The Center has always been a place for referrals, resources and connections, but more than that, it’s a place where people can find their community,” Rosol said. “This will allow us to grow our programming so it serves more of the community. We want to add more of an educational component instead of people just coming here when they need help.”
Danny Harden, an employee working on voter turnout efforts for The Center, said the new building would serve as a focal point and gathering space for all the groups that make up the LGBT community in Las Vegas.
“There are so many different demographics that are served there. There’s a youth center, there’s a library, there’s a computer center,” Harden, 22, said. “People are going to be much better served at this facility. There are so many more programs that can be implemented there.”
Harden, who began volunteering in 2008 at the agency, said The Center served as a safe place for members of the LGBT community, but it also is a launching pad to help people get involved with volunteering and activism.
“For me, it was like a home away from home,” Harden said. “The Center is a place where I can meet other people who are also LGBTQ-identified. It’s a place not only to socialize, but to get some work done in the community.”
The new center is named for Robert L. Forbuss, a Las Vegas LGBT community leader and former Clark County School Board member. Forbuss was active in the repeal of Nevada’s sodomy law in 1993. He also assisted Dr. Jerry Cade in creating the research nonprofit Nevada AIDS Research and Education Society and still serves as the nonprofit group’s director of development, a nonpaid position.