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The GoPride.com Interview

Modesto Tico Valle

by PJ Gray
Chicago’s LGBT community has experienced some impressive milestones in 2007. This year’s Pride Parade was one of the most heavily attended in its history and the long-awaited Center on Halsted (COH) officially opened its doors. Located at Halsted and Waveland, this enormous three story, state-of-the-art, 65,000-square-feet “green” building is the most comprehensive LGBT center in the country. The Center (formerly Horizons Community Services) has a staff of nearly 50 people and is not only the home for numerous organizations including the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Windy City Athletic Association, PFLAG, and Names Project Chicago, but also houses a performance space, a multipurpose gymnasium, a rooftop garden, and gallery space among the array of meeting rooms and offices for social service programs.

The COH’s busy Executive Director Modesto Tico Valle spoke with ChicagoPride about this exciting new facility.

PJ: What makes the Chicago LGBT community unique?

MTV: We come together to celebrate our diversity.

PJ: Why is a LGBT community center so important?

MTV: It provides a safe, affirming space for programming and activities.

PJ: What is the estimated final cost for the Center’s creation?

MTV: $20 million

PJ: Where did the funding come from?

MTV: Local, state, and federal governments; individual donations and corporate and philanthropic foundations. Miriam Hoover, the Center’s largest individual donor, made a $1 million gift in honor of her nephew, Michael Leppen. The Center’s Hoover-Leppen Theatre is named in their honor.

PJ: What surprised you most during the Center’s development process?

MTV: The selflessness and eagerness of LGBT persons and allies to create a center for the entire community.

PJ: How will the Center impact LGBT youth?

MTV: The Center’s youth program, providing programming and services for youth since 1973, promotes leadership, vocational/career and educational development, recreation and healthy self-esteem. The youth program addresses prevention issues related to HIV/AIDS, STDS, substance abuse.

PJ: How will LGBT history (and especially Chicago’s LGBT history) be represented at the Center?

MTV: Chicago’s LGBT history will be celebrated through periodic gallery installations and exhibits throughout the year.

PJ: The Center has been heralded as a “Green” building. What makes it so environmentally friendly?

MTV: From the start, Center on Halsted chose to build green. In 2005, the Kresge Foundation of Troy, Michigan, added $150,000 to their challenge grant of $800,000 in recognition and support of our commitment to the environment. Through careful planning and innovative design, Center on Halsted is nearly 20% more energy efficient than standard construction. Center on Halsted has applied for Silver Level LEED (Leadership in Engineering Environmental Design) certification and will be the second building in Chicago to receive such status.

The building’s energy supply consists of 50% purchased green power from renewable energy sources, such as hydro, solar, and wind. The purchase of renewable energy encourages the development and use of such technologies that result in no pollution. The building utilizes a graywater system that collects rainwater from roof drains and uses it to flush toilets and urinals in the building.

All the concrete has a high fly ash content; fly ash is recovered from burning coal. Other building elements with a high recycled content include: steel, aluminum window framing, window glazing, concrete masonry units, brick, acoustical soundproofing, ceiling tiles and carpet.

Sensors throughout the building monitor incoming daylight and adjust interior lighting accordingly, decreasing energy consumption.

Heating, cooling, and air ventilation is zone-controlled by monitors that detect CO2 emissions to determine whether a room is in use. When there are more people in a room, the system increases the ventilation for better air quality; when empty, the system is kept at low maintenance levels.

PJ: How do you see the Center existing within the city’s heterosexual community?

MTV: Center on Halsted welcomes all—including LGBT-affirming allies—to our facility for services and activities.

PJ: What is your vision for the Center’s future in years to come?

MTV: To be the resource on LGBT issues in the Midwest, including providing LGBT-centered educational and vocational information to the public; to develop a vibrant advocacy center on LGBT issues and concerns; to be a premiere LGBT employer.

For more information on Chicago's new Center on Halsted located at 3656 N Halsted, visit www.centeronhalsted.org
 
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