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Boulder JCC sees dream coming true

The Boulder Jewish Community Center has received enough pledges to transform a more than decade-long dream for a new building into bricks and mortar.

The JCC’s cornerstone capital campaign has raised almost $14.5 million in commitments — including the land, valued at $2.5 million — to build a new JCC, said Jonathan Lev, Boulder JCC’s new executive director. Most of the pledges and donations came in 2010, he said.

“It’s growing by the day,” Lev said.


Although the goal of the $20 million campaign has yet to be reached, the amount already collected and pledged is enough to start planning the building phase, said Scott Peppet, who along with his wife, Kellie Zell, co-chair the cornerstone capital campaign.


Occupancy of the building is projected to Summer, 2013, he added.

“With almost $15 million there is no question we are going to build something,” Peppet said.

The plan is to move the JCC from its roughly 11,000-square-foot building at 3800 Kalmia Ave. to the Boulder Jewish Commons, a 32-acre site at the corner of Cherryvale and Arapahoe roads, and to build a state-of-the-art, 30,000 to 40,000-square-foot structure.

The amount of land alloted for the JCC on the Boulder Jewish Commons is approximately six acres for the JCC and 3.5 acres for the parking lot. The current JCC building and land will be sold.

“This is largest capital campaign the Boulder Jewish community has ever undertaken,” said Linda Loewenstein, the JCC’s executive director from May, 2000, to August, 2010.

The long and winding road

In 1999, the Boulder Jewish Community Foundation, with the mission of creating “a gathering place where Jewish community life will flourish,” purchased the current JCC property.

The JCC preschool, then owned by the Robert E. Loup JCC in Denver, moved into the building in January, 2000.

In March, 2005, the BJCF and the Boulder JCC split into two separate organizations.

Also in 1999, the Weaver Family Foundation purchased the Boulder Jewish Commons land from the BJCF with the intent of “developing it for the benefit of Boulder’s Jewish nonprofit community,”  and it’s now owned by the Oreg Foundation, a successor of the Weaver Family Foundation, the Oreg Foundation said.

From the beginning, the Kalmia location was considered interim, Lev said, and the goal was to move to a larger building in a more central location.

“Where we could go and what we could be was always in our thoughts since the beginning,” he said.

Throughout its 12-year history, the Boulder JCC has been challenged by the layout and size of the property, spanning from an inadequate  performance space, a wait list for the preschool, as well as inadequate bathrooms and parking, Lev said.

“Our current facility cannot meet the needs of the community right now,” he said, adding that the new building’s location will be more easily accessible for the Front Range Jewish community.

For more than a decade the JCC board worked toward the vision of creating a larger JCC and conducted community surveys, Loewenstein said, but over the years the community, economy and goals changed. For instance, 10 years ago the environmental footprint of the JCC was not considered; now it’s a major part of the plan. In 1999, the JCC served hundreds of people; today the Allied Jewish Federation estimates that 8,500 people access the programs and services offered by the Boulder JCC.

“Although it seems like the capital campaign planning has been a long process,” Loewenstein said, “we just needed to figure out what this community needed. We have reached the point where we really are there.”

For most of 2010, fundraising continued in a “quiet phase,” when major donors were identified. Donations included one $5 million pledge as well as a $2 million and several $1 million pledges.

In November and December an informational letter was sent to approximately 5,000 Boulder-area Jewish households describing the proposed project. Donations began rolling in from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars.

The outpouring of support was amazing, Peppet said. In addition to large donors, there were also $5,000 to $10,000 donations from people who had never previously donated to the JCC.

“People realize that this really is now going to happen,” Peppet said.

‘We need this’

The plan is that the JCC will occupy a portion of the Boulder Jewish Commons with the hope that Boulder Jewish Elder Housing and synagogues will eventually be located on the site, as well, according to the Oreg Foundation. The foundation intends to lead the entitlement process for approvals to build a new JCC and then to transfer land ownership to the JCC and to other organizations and congregations “as they demonstrate readiness to fulfill their missions on Boulder Jewish Commons,” the foundation said.

Boulder Jewish Elder Housing plans to start a capital campaign for its three-story structure — to be built on the Boulder Jewish Commons near the Boulder JCC—after the JCC project begins construction, said Ellen Taxman, president of the nonprofit BJEH. Taxman said the development will feature 77, one- and two-bedroom units for residents 62 and older.

“We’re going to let the JCC be the pioneers of the site and go in after them,” Taxman said. “It is critical to our success to have a vibrant and active JCC so that our residents can participate and engage in the activities of the JCC.”

Plans for the JCC’s 30,000 to 40,000-square-foot building include a 7,000-square-foot gym, an early childhood center, a community hall that seats at least 200, a summer camp facility, an adult learning center and an outdoor swimming pool. The building will also be environmentally sustainable, including efficient heating and cooling systems and the use of natural lighting.

The majority of the money will be used toward construction and a portion will be placed into an endowment fund to support the JCC’s maintenance and operational costs, Peppet said.

Ideally, the balance of the $20 million goal would be raised this year, but even without it, plans could be scaled back to a 30,000-square-foot building with the possibility of expansion in the future.

The rest of this year will be used to finalize architectural plans and to obtain city and county permits. By the end of 2011, contractor bids will be reviewed and a contractor will be chosen. Occupancy is planned for the summer of 2013.

“This project is incredibly important to the entire Jewish community of Colorado,” Lev said, adding that Jews from 26 zip codes from Denver to Fort Collins use the current facility. “There is a critical mass that has said ‘We need this.’”

Information: Jonathan Lev, or (303) 449-3996.

Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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