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August 15, 2022

Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation Announces "The Collective"

The collective logo

The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (the Foundation) is proud to announce the purchase of the former Bethesda Corporate Center and 90 adjacent acres along the Rock River on the city's south side. The Foundation plans to transform the campus into a thriving work-live-play neighborhood that models best practices in community connectedness, health and wellbeing.

Over the next 10 months, the former Corporate Center will be renovated, reopening in the summer of 2023 as The Collective. In 55,000 square feet over three floors, The Collective will house a new YMCA Child Care and Early Education Center, a satellite Express YMCA, Jefferson County Head Start, and nonprofit and innovation coworking spaces. In its entirety, members of The Collective will be a vibrant community of changemakers championing strong families and a prosperous community.

Development of The Collective and adjacent property is an exciting next step toward the Foundation's vision of vibrant communities where everyone enjoys health and wellbeing. The project will also catalyze development in one of the City of Watertown's priority development areas.

"Collaboration is foundational to everything the Foundation does, and this campus will provide many opportunities for community partners to collaborate in improving community vibrancy and wellbeing," said Dr. Mike Sullivan, Foundation Board Chair.

The collective definitions

Since 2017, the Foundation has facilitated Every Child Thrives, a partnership of 50+ agencies across Dodge and Jefferson Counties working to ensure all children thrive in health, learning and life. The Collective campus investment is designed to accelerate transformative impact toward Every Child Thrives' strong families and prosperous community goals. The community benefits of this project include:

"The Collective is more than just a work space," says Tina Crave, Foundation President & CEO. "It's a catalyst for our mission, which is to inspire collaboration, mobilize resources and encourage innovation that measurably contributes to the wellbeing of our community."

The Collective will serve as an innovation center, piloting best practices for childcare business sustainability. Outreach from The Collective to early care and education providers across Dodge and Jefferson Counties will connect providers with resources to improve quality of care and operational effectiveness.

The Watertown Area YMCA also announced plans for The Collective to be the future home of the new, full-size YMCA. The YMCA would be developed in two phases based on the support of community donors. Phase one would relocate current operations from the old Watertown High School with amenities including a Gymnasium, Wellness & Free Weight Center, aerobic activity studios and Youth Center. The second phase would center on the addition of a state-of-the-art aquatic facility for instruction, recreation and water safety. The YMCA will release details of future plans as they become funded.

A shared investment in community

"The Collective is a dream we've explored behind the scenes for many years," says Crave. "After exploring several options, from building new to repurposing space, we are excited to bring these dreams to life at this location."

Total capital costs to purchase the 90 acres, renovate and finish the 55,000 square foot Collective are budgeted at $16 million. Jefferson County and Dodge County have each allocated $200,000 and the City of Watertown has allocated $400,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support The Collective's goals of increasing access to quality child care across the region.

"One of the goals our city council set was to use our ARPA funds in a manner that the impact of the funds lasted well beyond the funding itself," Mayor Emily McFarland said. "There is no doubt about it that our community needs more child care slots; I've seen the data and I've heard it during nearly every business visit I've done. I'm thankful to the Foundation for leading this effort, to the YMCA for being an incredible community partner, and to the city council for allocating this level of involvement. It will make an incredible impact on workforce availability, on the families in our community, and on the children in care. In government, you don't always get the opportunity to be a proactive and strategic leader of change; I'm thrilled we get to be a part of that with this project."

In addition to serving as the new headquarters for the Foundation, The Collective will serve as home for the following agencies:

Watertown Area YMCA

A cornerstone partner in this project, the YMCA will open a new Child Care and Early Education Center and a satellite Express YMCA in 2023.

Jefferson County Head Start - A federal- and state-funded preschool program focusing on school readiness for 3-5 year old children, at no cost to eligible families.

AbleLight (formerly Bethesda) - Provides life-changing services that empower people with developmental disabilities to achieve their full potential.

Community Action Coalition - A nonprofit working to end poverty and help people live better lives.

Safe Families for Children - A professionally supported volunteer movement dedicated to providing "extended family-like supports" to local families facing a crisis.

Jefferson County Human Services - Enhancing the quality of life for individuals and families living in Jefferson County by addressing their needs in a respectful manner and enabling citizens receiving services to function as independently as possible, while acknowledging their cultural differences.

Innovation coworking space - This coworking space invites community changemakers from all backgrounds and sectors into The Collective. A selective leasing process will prioritize civic-minded entrepreneurs and businesses who are looking to share space with a network of community changemakers.

Leases will include private workspace with wraparound amenities that foster connection and provide efficiencies, including:

Benefits for all

The Collective is a shared investment in community prosperity, ultimately lifting families, agencies, volunteers and businesses.

Renovation plans and Timeline

To date, the foundation has invested more than $14 million in its five strategic, child-focused priorities:

To learn more about the foundation and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com or Facebook at Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.