After more than two years at 16 Warburton Ave. in downtown Yonkers, Purchase College-SUNY will close the doors of the Purchase College Center for Community & Culture-Yonkers and move its programming to community incubator and co-working space, The PowerLab. A college official said the center will officially close on Jan. 17.
“There is a great deal of creativity, talent and determination in Yonkers, and we are excited to continue our work and help community members achieve their goals,” said Purchase College President Thomas J. Schwarz.
Purchase College and Yonkers city officials opened the Purchase College Center in fall of 2015. It has offered educational programs for children and adults, along with hosting a variety of arts activities and exhibitions, from poetry readings and drawing classes to community meetings and film screenings.
“What we discovered in the time we worked in Yonkers was that we’re better at providing content and programming through partnerships as opposed to running the facility,” said Barry Pearson, provost of Purchase College. “We’ve learned that in the time we’ve been in Yonkers, we’ve reacted to what we’ve learned and PowerLab will be a partner we can grow with, and we’re excited.”
Pearson added that a lack of adequate funding made the offsite center “no longer financially feasible.” When the center opened in 2015, the city of Yonkers granted Purchase College $300,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds, which the provost said was used to cover rent at its Warburton Avenue facility
Though the school has since lost its funding from the city, Purchase College will continue to provide the same level of expenditures for its programming at The PowerLab, said Pearson.
“I think that we all felt that this was going to be an experience and if the funding could hold out, it would work,” he said. “Through no fault of anyone, the funding just didn’t last. We all are regretful about that, but I think what it did allow us to do is create these deep roots in Yonkers.”
The PowerLab, a 2,7000-square-foot former medical space, celebrated its grand opening in southwest Yonkers in September. An initiative led by the Community Governance & Development Council, a Yonkers nonprofit, The PowerLab provides access to office spaces, workshops, training and individualized business and project assistance.
Co-founders Ray Wilcox and Anthony Bailey, managing partners of Defiant Media Group, a marketing and business development agency in Yonkers, oversaw the build-out and launch of the facility, on the third floor of an office building at 45 Ludlow St.
Tenants in PowerLab’s office space include a range of local nonprofits. The group is also working to finalize the plan for its incubator program, which is scheduled to launch in February.
Bailey, an alumnus himself of Purchase College, said the PowerLab’s focus on local economics and social impact aligns with the mission of the Purchase College Center. “We’re serving a community that is an underserved market that’s never really had opportunities,” he said. The move of the college’s programs to the PowerLab will better allow both organizations to “provide their services directly to the community.”
“They really want to be an asset within the community they serve,” Bailey said of Purchase College. “Not just by providing the space, but providing actual programs that are sustainable.”
Purchase College and The PowerLab first collaborated last summer for a class at Purchase College Center on entrepreneurship in an effort to support startups in Yonkers.
“We were able to solidify through the summer and through this last year a partnership that really benefits both parties,” Bailey said. “But it’s not just what’s best for us, but for the community that we serve.”
Beginning in the new year, Purchase and The PowerLab plan to collaborate again to offer KodePal, a one-on-one coding class for children and young adults. Yonkers students will be paired with an instructor who will work with them remotely for one hour each week via the Google Hangouts screen-sharing feature. Students will learn the ins and outs of coding, a skill that Pearson and Bailey said will help these young people in their future careers.
“We think that’s really powerful,” Pearson said of the program.
Bailey said he’s hopeful that students who learn coding skills through KodePal will go on to become coding instructors themselves in the future. “They can come back and do the same for other individuals,” he said.
Purchase College, part of the State University of New York network of 64 universities and colleges, was founded in 1967 by Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller.