The New Center of the Neighborhood

Gay & Lesbian Community Center expands reach in new home

The best thing about the redevelopment of downtown Las Vegas is that it’s begun to make a place for every cultural institution that’s needed one, from a gallery district to a performing arts center. The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, which until recently operated out of a 6,000-square-foot storefront, has desperately needed such a place. Now, it’s got one.

This week, the 20-year-old community organization colloquially known as “The Center” moved into a handsome, completely remodeled stand-alone building at 401 S. Maryland (at Clark). The move has given The Center 16,000 square feet of indoor space and 4,000 square feet of outdoor space. More than that, however, it’s given The Center a sense of place. From the moment you step foot inside The Center’s new reception gallery—an airy common area anchored by a café—you’re struck by the rightness of it all. You feel as if it was supposed to be here all along.

“Our neighbors are excited we’re here,” says The Center’s director of development, Christine Nottage. “They’re happy we’ve done so much with a formerly vacant and not-so-nice building.”

The new location has yielded almost too many practical benefits to count here. The newly christened Robert L. Forbuss building has a huge health and wellness center with its own entrance, so anyone who’s getting an HIV test can do so in relative privacy. The new youth center is far above and beyond the previous space, with ample room for movie nights and half-court basketball games.

In fact, nearly everything The Center offers—meeting space, web connectivity, senior counseling, mental health services, and even the David S. Parks LGBTQ lending library—has increased in capacity. For a community organization that served 36,068 people last year—up more than 6,000 people from the previous year—every bit of extra capacity is vital.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many community-based nonprofits, funding is the only thing that hasn’t nearly quadrupled in size. Now through March 11, The Center is conducting an Indiegogo fundraising drive to defray their moving expenses. And in keeping with The Center’s innate sense of inclusion, every single person who donates—even if only $10—gets their name on a donor wall in the reception gallery, adjacent to that snazzy new Bronze Café. (Different donor levels earn you different fanciful titles, from a $25 “Diva” to a $5,000 “Rainbow Unicorn.”)

But even if The Center doesn’t reach its $27,000 funding goal, the important part is done. The Center is moved, and has already begun providing services out of the new building; a full grand opening is planned for April 6. For now, The Center is doing what all downtown newcomers do: Meeting the neighbors and relishing the feeling of having found one’s place.

“This new building is a culmination of every community member’s active presence at The Center over the years,” says Nottage. “They were supportive, passionate and brave. They took the risks which led to this new space.”