ST. ANSGAR | Members of the South Square Board of Directors held a “State of the Square” community meeting on Sunday, Jan. 7. Among the topics discussed was the time left to determine if the South Square project was going to continue to work, with the focus being on maintaining the old Washington square building as a Community Center.
“The next 12 months are critical to determining the longer-term viability of the building,” said Tyler McKinley, board member for the South Square school project. “We need to decide by January 2019, because of the 28E agreement signed with the school board and the need for the building to be vacant for six months to apply for a DNR grant to help with demolition.”
McKinley and board member Ashley Demaris spoke to the more than 60 individuals in attendance regarding the 2017 highlights and accomplishments, including the opening of an art gallery and the Cedar Summerstock Theater program using the building as their rehearsal space.
Activities have included 50 rentals since opening in April, a New Year’s Eve Show, Shopping with Santa, Girl Scout meetings, wrestling practice, dance rehearsals, use of the commercial kitchen and bingo, which draws about 50 people each time. In addition, there is a bicycle repair shop housed in the building and a home-school group uses a room once a week.
Demaris reported there had been many building repairs, including painting and the installation of LED lights.
“We started the year at $24,800,” McKinley said, “and ended right about the same place, but we had a massive amount of first-time expenses during the year. These were mostly met with income and grants. Our total expenses came to $39,000, which included the architects' report for the fire marshal, while our total income was $37,275, so we ended down $1,725.”
McKinley explained the board is in the process of scheduling an energy audit, as well as getting feedback regarding their current space rental costs and if the prices are too low for the space and rental time.
“Our long-term tenants are people who are renting the space for 12 months, like wrestling and dance,” McKinley said. “While for benefits, people get the building for free, and we operate the bar for them and make our profits from the bar. It has been a lot of work and requires a lot of volunteer labor. The question is if the community wants to keep the building going and do the different types of work needed to keep it open.”
He added, “Demand has been higher than expected. We want community input, including more people in operations and decision. We have a website; we need help with marketing and awareness and just getting on people’s radar.”
More information regarding the South Square project, including space availability, classes, activities and prices can be found at Southsquare.org. In addition, South Square will have open meetings on the last Sunday of every month, at 4 p.m. following bingo.