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Winonans weigh in on Friendship Center move

April 19, 2018

The Winona Friendship Center’s future was the talk of the town Tuesday evening as community members came out to weigh in on the center’s proposed relocation and development.

More than 75 local residents packed the Winona City Council chambers shortly after 5:30 p.m., ready to share their vision for a new community center.

For the city’s first visioning meeting, the focus was on features and amenities, not the location of the center, which will be decided later.

“The city has not chosen a location for the community center,” assistant city manager Chad Ubl said. “We would like to focus on amenities and not debate location.”

Leading off the discussion were ISG architects Amanda Prosser and Kevin Bills and Winona Friendship Center director Malia Fox.

Bills said the idea is to create a community center tailored to needs and desires of the public.

“I’ve never worked on two community centers that are the same,” he said, adding a community center is defined by what the public makes it.

For nearly an hour, Winonans of all ages shared their thoughts on what would make the center a better place.

Ideas ranged from additional space for existing programming and a coffee corner to green space for outdoor activities, gardening or athletics.

Chris Antoff said she’d like to see more green space and a places for books.

Echoing Antoff’s desire, Dorothy Duellman suggested a picnic area.

A Woodshop was on John Carlson’s short list. He said space could allow for multigenerational learning where experienced woodworkers could teach novices the trade.

Fox said she was surprised by many of the ideas including one proposal to put an outdoor classroom space on the roof.

“It was wonderful to see so many people engaged,” she said. “For 15 years we’ve talked about the issues we have maneuvering in the building.”

The Friendship Center, located on Fifth and Main Street, currently has a membership of about 1,000 people. However, Fox said there are nearly 4,000 adults in the community who aren’t taking advantage of the space for one reason or another.

She said that may be due to the perception of the Friendship Center as a place for old people.

“There is that old adage,” Fox said. “I’m not that old, that’s for old people.”

Fox hopes by rebranding the center community space for people of all ages they can dispel that misperception.

“To me, community means that we support one another no matter what age,” she said. “Having standalone silos of ages is not community.”

The meeting was the first of many to come. City officials will discuss the community center and its place in Winona’s park system during the Park and Recreation Department’s comprehensive plan kick off at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 24, at City Hall.