Shae Ingalls, left, and Brooke Ryder, members of the Augusta Teen Center of the Boys and Girls Clubs, inspect one of the models for a potential new club space Thursday at 189 Water St. in downtown Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — “It feels, looking at it, like a place where we can be us and can be comfortable at,” Brooke Ryder said.

She was talking about the winning design that may soon become the blueprint for the Augusta Teen Center.

University of Maine at Augusta architecture students undertook a two-week intensive project, working closely with the teen center and listening to the needs and wants outlined by Augusta Teen Center Executive Director Charles Huerth.

Ryder was joined by other members of “club” to survey each design and ultimately choose which one they liked best. A total of nine three-student groups created designs.

Huerth said the idea to team up with UMA came to him when he realized that it might be time for a new space.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, half the number of students that would normally go to the Augusta Teen Center are allowed because of the social distancing guidelines. While it is something being discussed, the center has not yet made plans to move.

Charles Huerth, Augusta Teen Center executive director, center, and University of Maine at Augusta architecture professor Carter Skemp discuss one of the proposals Thursday during judging at 189 Water St. in downtown Augusta. Teams of UMA architecture students had their projects for a new club building judged by faculty and club members, staff and board members. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“We wanted them to dream, because we are dreaming about it,” Huerth said.

The different student designs give Huerth and Augusta Teen Center members the ability to visualize what they would like their new space to look like.

During the final project event, Amy Hinkley, assistant professor of architecture at UMA, said the designs could help the club “connect to Augusta on multiple scales,” which was one Huerth’s main goals.

“We can connect through pedestrians walking by and seeing the space, we can connect to the community in having kids look at it (the club) as a landmark and not just a bridge, or they can look at the sign and connect it to the Teen Center,” Hinkley said.

The event was round-robin style, where attendees could stand up close to the posters and interact with the designs. One group put a “QR code” on the front so people could scan it with their phone’s camera to pull up a virtual 3-D rendering.

After time to peruse the designs, Carter Skemp, UMA architecture lecturer, asked for constructive feedback on each of the nine posters. He also gave advice on how the designs could be rendered to be accessible for everyone.

“It looks like a bar,” “It’s too dark,” and “There are no bathrooms,” were among the constructive comments given.

University of Maine at Augusta architecture students and judges listen Thursday as professor Carter Skemp, right, announces winners at 189 Water St. in downtown Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The design from the team of Nicole Cyr, Gavin Poperechny and Nathan Deshaies was the top choice for club members. In addition to the winning team, two others were chosen as runners-up and two more were given honorable mentions.

“It feels very social,” Shae Ingalls, 15, said of the winning design.

The team said that it wanted a “fun space” for the teens.

“We used the space as a way to promote visibility to see,” Cyr said. “We divided the space in methods, with glass, an extra floor and by having open spots for the kids.”

Huerth told the students upon their first meeting last week that visibility is a “huge” part of the design and being able to see the teens at all times is “important.”

The winning design had an open space, which also had depth, with ping pong and air hockey tables, and a commercial kitchen. Couches were scattered throughout, with “corona couches” — small couches in different directions — as they were called by the club members, especially recognized.

“We united the space together to give easy access to see,” Poperechny said.

Deshaies added that they wanted it to be a space that the Teen Center could “invite the community into.” The trio emphasized that by adding an ice cream shop in the front.

Club members are excited for what could be their new space and afterschool home.

Huerth said that the next step in the process is to raise money to make it possible for Water Street to be the center’s new location.

He added, “189 Water St. is an amazing place and it would change the program for the positive. It would change the lives of the teenagers.”

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