NEW: Royal Palm Beach to tear down aging Harvin Center

When the Royal Palm Beach Colony sales building opened in 1969, it offered prospective residents the opportunity to be part of a burgeoning new village, paving the way for future families.

That building, now the Kevin M. Harvin Center, is slated for demolition next year after the Royal Palm Beach village council voted unanimously at its Nov. 16 meeting to tear it down in the face of mounting maintenance costs.

In a presentation to the council, Village Manager Ray Liggins said the building would “qualify under the definition if we started going in there and redoing things as a money pit,” with more cash needed to make major renovations than the building is worth.

“We feel it’s a building that’s reached its useful life and it’s time to take it out of service,” Liggins told the council. Between its use as a sales building and its current use as a home for the YWCA’s Child Development Center and two other tenants, the Harvin Center was vacant for two multi-year stretches, with a stint as the Royal Palm Beach library branch sandwiched between.

The village in the past considered tearing down the Harvin Center to build a senior-living facility. But developers balked at building in that location, Mayor Fred Pinto told The Palm Beach Post, saying it was too far from main thoroughfares.

The YWCA’s five-year lease expires in February, but the council voted to extend it and the other two leases through the end of June to allow the YWCA time to find a new home in the western communities and complete the school year. The other two tenants will move to the village’s Recreation Center.

Rob Hill, director of the village’s Building Department, put together a report for the council recommending the demolition. He said the decision is not one he takes lightly, but the condition of the Harvin Center would require a “significant investment” in the next few years.

“The history of the building, the heavy timber construction, the type 3 construction, and the long time periods that it was vacant during those different uses have created this kind of an issue,” Hill said.

Suzanne Turner, CEO of the YWCA of Palm Beach County, said the organization’s Head Start program is the only one of its kind in the area. Several Realtors already have reached out to her to help find a new space for the Child Development Center, she said.

“Our plans are to stay right in the area,” Turner said.

While serving as a daycare, Turner said the program also offers parents help “on a number of issues to elevate their standing.” Families can listen to guest speakers and take part in a nutritional program. Children are evaluated at the beginning of the school year, and often enter pre-Kindergarten on better standing than peers who come from other programs, Turner said.

“I think a lot of people think we’re just babysitting service,” she added. “We are that, but we are so much more.”

The YWCA currently serves between 60 and 70 children at its Harvin Center site. It has been there since 1997.

Village council members emphasized they do not want to close and demolish the Harvin Center until the YWCA finds a new home. “If there is anything else we can consider to help the Head Start program relocate, if there’s any relationships we have with anybody who might be able to assist them with finding a new location, I certainly would like to do that,” Councilman Jeff Hmara said.

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