University of Maine at Augusta architecture students tour the interior of 189 Water St. Monday in Augusta. That location is where the Augusta Teen Center plans to relocate, and students are creating designs for the organization to consider for the new space. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — University of Maine at Augusta student Jessica Angelova lives on Water Street. Now, her architecture studies may bring her design work to her neighborhood.

As part of the program’s annual project focused on community organizations in need of a new space, the students are working to create designs for a potential new home for the Augusta Teen Center at 189 Water St.

Angelova said it’s “exciting” to get to work with members of the community.

“Now we have a chance to set forth our own, conceptual ideas, while at the same time encouraging and exciting local members of the community with the revitalization of the greater Augusta area,” she said. “Knowing that, more opportunities and more development will bring a brighter future to the youth and families of central Maine.”

On Monday, Angelova and her classmates toured the space.

Student Isaac Sacks said working on a building in close proximity to the UMA campus gives the project “extra meaning.”

“It has been exciting to watch downtown Augusta making a steady comeback in the past few years that I’ve been here,” he said. “To be given the opportunity to participate in this project is really inspiring.”

Sacks was first drawn to the “fantastic views of the river and city” the Water Street building has and the “bright sunlight and the opportunity that it has for creating meaningful and inspiring spaces.”

University of Maine at Augusta architecture students Richard Stone and Meganne Radway take notes Monday in the interior of 189 Water St. in Augusta as Augusta Teen Center Director Charlie Huerth suggests ideas for a design of the nonprofit’s potential new location in the building. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Augusta Teen Center Director Charlie Huerth saw the UMA program as an opportunity for the organization to expand its space, which has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Because of social distancing, it’s difficult for us to reach the teens that we want to,” he said. “We are limited to 20 teens in our location, and normally we would have around 50 that would go through the club each day, so it’s limiting on what we can do.”

Formerly known as the Augusta Boys & Girls Club, the center shifted its focus at the beginning of the academic year to help students with the ongoing struggles associated with the pandemic. That includes providing opportunities for internet access on remote learning days or being a source of social interaction with the decrease in school time.

The collaboration with the UMA students will let the Augusta Teen Center see different possibilities of what can be done with the Water Street space. On the flip side, UMA students have the ability to see what it’s like to work on a “real-life” project and design based on the needs and wants of a client.

Huerth met with the students at the Water Street location Monday to highlight what he is looking for in the new teen center. Second through fourth-year students get to work in groups of three to come up with a design for the space, which they will present Feb. 5.

“We want a bigger space, provide more programming; (we) want to have more teens in the club and … to be safe with COVID distancing,” Huerth said.

The center would also like to have office space, a computer lab and a decompression room for students with special needs.

The Water Street location would allow the center to be central to the community and may open up the possibility for teens there to look for jobs in the area, Huerth said, one of the center’s goals.

University of Maine at Augusta architecture students survey the exterior of 189 Water St. Monday in Augusta for a project to design a potential new location for the Augusta Teen Center. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The design project is part of UMA’s Community Design Charrette, said Eric Stark, program director and UMA architecture professor.

The project gives the nonprofit different ideas of what the space could look like, he said. “It opens up this vision, and it’s a great visionary and exciting project for us.

“We are going to help them with different visions and their own visions,” Stark added, “so they can work at it and piece it together on what works best for them.”

In the past, he said, projects have included fire stations or renovations of town halls. Typically, Stark said, students are designing brand new spaces, not a renovation as they are for the Augusta Teen Center.

Designing something for an existing structure is more challenging for students, he said, because they have to focus on things like how people move through the space and how natural light comes into the building.

“The biggest positives are the idea of helping clients gain a more specific vision and showing them that they deserve a good design,” Stark said.

Because they are working with UMA students, the center doesn’t have to pay for the cost of a design. An Augusta Teen Center board member, however, has made a donation to award a monetary prize to the students who create the top two designs.

If a design created by the students meets the center’s need and budget, Huerth said, the organization may use it when renovating the 189 Water St. location.

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