Photos by Patrick Robinson
The Technology Access Foundation's Bethaday Community Learning Space in White Center is in the final phases of construction and expected to be complete by the end of September. It will be used to house TAF staff, teach STEM education to the area's youth and will be available for community functions. PLEASE CLICK THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR MORE

SLIDESHOW: TAF’s Bethaday Community Learning Space in White Center nears completion

“This space is for the community – it is not just our space,” Technology Access Foundation’s Deputy Director Sherry Williams said. “It’s for our families, it’s for our kids, it’s for learning."

Combining modern architecture with recycled elements of the original Greenbridge housing development (Park Lake Homes) next door, the Technology Access Foundation’s Bethaday Community Learning Space in White Center is nearing completion within the next month.

Williams gave the White Center News a tour of the $16 million, 22,500 square foot, three-story building on Aug. 23.

Please click the image above to see more

TAF’s mission statement is to improve “public education in underserved communities and in promoting awareness of and access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education for students of color,” and the primary functions of the new community center located on the east end of Lakewood Park are threefold: provide a STEM learning center for White Center area school children, an office for TAF staff, and a community center available for anything from neighborhood meetings to wedding receptions.

Williams said the project developed out of TAF’s need to expand from their current space (and much smaller office in South Seattle), King County’s desire to have a community center in White Center (she said the county gave $2 million to launch the capital campaign) and, of course, the interest in a dedicated technical training facility White Center’s youth can call their own. Many donors and grants later, the Learning Space is expected to be completed in late September.

Regarding the teaching element, Williams said TAF has been working in Highline schools for six years, collaborating with teachers to bring their TechStart program to 5th and 6th graders at Mt. View Elementary. She said the Bethaday Space will advance that mission, much like the TAF Academy in Federal Way, including the planned expansion to help middle school kids.

“Here we will have programming for middle schoolers called STEM Up,” she said. “They will come here and learn programming, robotics, (etc.) and we will also be preparing them for college.”

Three stories for work, learning and community
The top floor is office space for TAF staff during the day and, with several conference rooms built in, will be available for community groups in the evenings (they are still working out the details on rates that Williams said will be reasonable). In a recurring theme throughout the space, the office desks were built from recycled Greenbridge wood.

The middle floor is dedicated to learning, with two large classrooms that can be divided in half to make four, when needed. Outer walls of the classrooms were made from old Greenbridge house doors. Refurnished, they look like brand new paneling.

The bottom floor (ground level) is a multipurpose room with open space for 200 people and a kitchen. It will be used as a cafeteria for after-school programs and open to public rental when not in use by TAF. The west-facing wall is made up of glass “garage” style panels that open up into Lakewood Park – a feature that could come in handy when the weather allows community events to expand. A raingarden will live on the south side of the building.

The entire Bethaday space is designed to let what light Puget Sound weather allows in, with windows making up the majority of the exterior. Unique multi-colored Parlex panels – another salvage from Greenbridge – accent the building’s center.

Infusing history into the construction
A final homage to Greenbridge gets people into Bethaday – a walkway built from large beams that used to form the homes of the low-income housing complex that was demolished some years ago. The housing was originally called Park Lake Homes and built to house Boeing employees. King County also chipped in on the memorabilia front, with collages of retired street signs adorning the walls of balconies around the building.

“The reason TAF felt it was important to incorporate some of White Center’s history into the buildings is because it represents the diversity of families who live there (who) we have served and continue to serve,” Williams said. “TAF wants the families of White Center to know that TAF isn’t new to the community, but has been a part of the community and is continuing to work hard to impact the students in the community.”

Williams said the idea came from a Public Architecture project called Scrap House. Seattle-based Miller Hull Architects has worked with Public Architecture and designed the Bethaday Space with reuse in mind.

TAF is aiming for LEED Silver certification with Bethaday. LEED is a third-party benchmark system that grades the environmental friendliness of a building. Silver is the third best certification level, behind platinum and gold.

Williams said her staff hopes to move in by late September, followed by open houses for the community and donors in October and after school programs for area middle school kids start in January, 2013.

“It is going to be a nice building for this community,” she said.

“TAF is about educating our youth and making sure there is a place to do that, and that they feel welcome and that this is their building.

“This belongs to the White Center community, this is what it is for and what it is about, and we want to see activities of all kind, of all ages, from our youth to our parents to our seniors.”

The Bethaday Community Learning Space was named by major donor Ken Birdwell, an original Valve Software employee and tech philanthropist, and TAF’s Executive Director Trish Millines Dziko, combining the last names of their “heroes in education.” Birdwell’s hero is Michael Faraday, a pioneer in developing electricity as a source of power, and Dziko’s is Mary McLeod Bethune, an early 20th century crusader for higher education access for African Americans.

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