‘Hub’ youth center working to reopen in New Lenox Twp.
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com May 28, 2012 8:18PM
The Hub, a nonprofit organization in the Lincoln-Way area that provides teens with a place to hang out, has been closed since November as founder Dan Stinnett (right) makes repairs to bring everything up to code. | File photo
Updated: July 1, 2012 11:32AM
The concert stage has been silent, the video games and foosball table dormant.
But Dan Stinnett hopes to reopen his Lincoln-Way-area youth center sooner rather than later.
The Hub — tucked away in a New Lenox Township industrial park at 1303 Schoolhouse Road — has been closed since late November while Stinnett tries to comply with Will County building codes.
“We’re almost through,” he said recently.
While he is full of new ideas to implement once he reopens, Stinnett said he now needs to know if the community will support the nonprofit, not just in word, but with cash donations.
“If I’m going to keep going, I need financial support,” Stinnett said. “I have poured the past four years of my life into this project. I’ve spent all of our savings and all of our fundraising money on trying to comply with county requirements.”
If people in the community “want the Hub to speak into the lives of teenagers today and in the years to come, it’s now or never,” Stinnett said.
He said he has spent about $15,000 trying to get a special-use permit to allow his venue to operate in an industrial park, and to make improvements to meet health, safety and accessibility codes.
The Hub opened in the summer of 2008, offering concerts, open mike nights, video games, a snack bar and more to area youth. In Stinnett’s words, it’s a “strategic effort to preserve and enhance the lives of young people.”
But the Will County code enforcement department got a complaint in April 2011 from a church that also wanted to use industrial space as a gathering place for services but was denied.
Neither the Hub nor the church was a permitted use of the site in an area zoned for industrial use, said Ray Semplinski, the county’s chief building official.
Stinnett was granted a special-use permit in November, but it was contingent upon meeting the building codes.
Stinnett’s to-do list for compliance included upgrading the septic system, installing “panic door” hardware and lighted exit signs, making the stage, counters and thresholds handicapped accessible, installing a handrail and a 42-inch-high guard rail on a second-floor loft, lighting those stairs, and verifying the structural integrity of the loft area and the stage.
He recently was still working on plans and a timeline for at least the stage.
There were other issues, too, such as striping the parking lot, designating the rest rooms for “men” and “women,” and making sure the building is hooked up to fire alarms.
“These are minimum requirements that have a great impact on the ability to survive a negative event,” Semplinski said. “If there are going to be 250 people in that building, we have to be sure they are safe. We treat everyone the same.”
He said he went over the list of requirements with Stinnett and his architect and told them to return with a set of drawings showing the floor plan, mechanical, electrical and plumbing elements, and a list of his licensed contractors in order to secure a building permit.
Most of the work has been completed, but according to Semplinski, it was done without a building permit, without an approved plan or list of licensed contractors, which may result in a higher building permit fee.
Stinnett wants the building to be inspected so he can get an occupancy permit, but the county can’t inspect it without a building permit.
“We went over and above in outlining this step by step to him,” said Curt Paddock, director of the county’s land use department. “He’s a bright young man.”
And even though the Hub operates as a nonprofit, the building’s owner, Stinnett’s father, is a for-profit businessman, Paddock said.
“I think we’re going to get through this,” Stinnett said. “There’s been a little bit of confusion along the way, but we are both working toward the same goal. I thought I got a building permit after I completed the work.”
He said he agrees with the requirements and realizes that county officials “are just doing their job” and are not being unfair.
“No one is more interested in the safety of the kids than I am,” he said, adding that the work was done by professionals.
But Stinnett does want people to know what it cost to reopen the Hub, and he hopes they will respond. While he has charged between $5 and $10 for some events in the past, some are free, and guests have been welcome even if they can’t pay the cover charge.
He also plans to develop core groups for fundraising and leadership, and create a structure for those who have offered to volunteer. He plans to return with a fuller schedule of activities and make better use of all that improved space.