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Bungalow Will Soon House LGBT Welcome Center

A historic bungalow will be hauled a block down Central Avenue this weekend from 2335 to 2227 Central Avenue. All of the action starts at midnight, Sunday, August 11th and continues into the early hours of Monday morning. The house will become Metro’s LGBT Welcome Center in Grand Central: a mixed-use venue serving those visiting the St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay area, in addition to the local LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) communities.

The move is a partnership between Metro Wellness and Community Centers and the Grand Central District Association of St. Petersburg. “We are so excited to partner with our friends in the Grand Central District to make this happen,” said Lorraine Langlois, CEO of Metro Wellness and Community Centers. “The space will serve as a welcoming hub for visitors and residents alike – providing resources for the LGBT and allied communities and expand on our mission to enhance the quality of life for those in our area.”

The Welcome Center will be the third of its kind in the nation that focuses on LGBT visitors, offering a one-stop-shop to learn about LGBT and allied businesses, accommodations, where to shop, where to dine and more. In 2010, an LGBT Visitors Center opened in Miami Beach and a similar center opened just last month in Seattle, Wash. Much like the Center in South Florida, which was sponsored by MetLife – Metro’s LGBT Welcome Center in Grand Central will also have sponsorship and naming opportunities available for rooms along with the Welcome Center itself. Metro will launch a campaign once the house is in place to help gain community support. A grant provided by Visit Florida is helping to defray some initial costs but the project is a big endeavor for both organizations and the community at large. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, along with community and business support for this project to come to fruition,” says Langlois. “Our hope is to have our doors open by late fall of this year. Several naming rights along with corporate partner opportunities are available to make this become a reality.”

Langlois, who helped start Metro Wellness and Community Centers (formerly Metropolitan Charities) 20 years ago, has always seen the need for a bigger presence on Central Avenue and the importance of a vibrant welcoming space for LGBT visitors to the Tampa Bay area as the community here continues to grow.

The Welcome Center will also provide ground-floor office space for the Grand Central District Association. “It’s always exciting when something we’ve been talking about for several years in the community comes to fruition,” said Brian Longstreth, Broker of Your Neighborhood Realty (YNR) and a Board Member of the GCDA. “Everything seemed to fall into place. A historic home about to be torn down, the desire for Grand Central to have a first floor office on Central Avenue, the need for a LGBT welcome center in the area. The fact that it all happens in a saved 1920’s bungalow makes it even more special, and it only happened with the cooperation of many partners.” Longstreth, along with his brother Jim, an agent at YNR have helped facilitate this project with Metro and the GCDA. Through a donation by GSC of St. Pete, LLC, the house was granted to Metro.

“There’s so much potential in this gorgeous bungalow,” says Langlois. “I can’t wait to see it grow into the vibrancy that already exists along Central   Avenue.” The community can expect Metro’s LGBT Welcome Center in Grand Central to offer a regular calendar of LGBT programs, workshops and events in addition to those already offered through the organization’s Community Centers.

Metro Wellness and Community Centers currently has offices and LGBT Community Centers in St. Petersburg (3251 3rd Avenue North), YborCity and New Port Richey in addition to its Thrift & Gift retail location on Central Avenue, which supports those living with HIV/AIDS in the area and the many programs and services the organization offers. The organization has been providing premier HIV/AIDS services, prevention and free HIV testing, social networking, and other health and wellness programs for years to the four county area of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando. With active community center locations throughout the Tampa Bay area, the organization fosters diversity within the community as a whole, regardless of race, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or economic status and reaches across the state of Florida with its many programs.

The community is invited to join Metro and Grand Central District members between Sunday evening at midnight and 4 a.m. Monday morning to watch the house move into place. A champagne/mimosa toast along with food from area restaurants will be provided. Visitors and press are reminded to not park in the area between 21st and 23rd Streets on Central Avenue.

For more information contact Lorraine Langlois, CEO of Metro Wellness & Community Centers at 727-321-3854.

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