germaine-smith-baugh_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

FORT LAUDERDALE — A multimillion-dollar multipurpose center under construction for the Urban League of Broward County is expected to transform services to the community, according to league officials.

The bi-level, 28,000-square-foot Community Empowerment Center, slated to open in 2012, is being built on one-half of a five-acre lot at 560 NW 27th Ave., adjacent to the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC) in unincorporated Broward County. The remaining land is owned by Broward County Parks and Recreation Division.

The league secured a 40-year lease from the county for the land at a nominal cost of one dollar per year. The building will house all league staff and programming and quadruple the organization’s current space at 11 NW 36th Ave.

The construction contract was awarded to D. Stephenson Construction Inc.

“This is a 12-year dream come to life,” Germaine Smith-Baugh, ULBC president and CEO, said in an interview. “We really see ourselves as a part of this campus with AARLCC as our neighbor.” The center will make the community a stronger place, she said.

The league currently provides services to 7,000 Broward residents annually.

“The league will essentially be able to double the amount of services provided to the community and that’s going to be terrific,” said Doria Camaraza, who chairs the league’s board and is senior vice president and general manager of American Express Florida. “The location and the building will be a magnet for people in need.”

The center will house an onsite fitness room, private rooms for one-on-one special services counseling, a 4,200-square-foot multipurpose room which can be sectioned off into four smaller rooms, an outdoor deck overlooking Samuel Delevoe Park, a small training center and a bank of computers in a lab equipped with Wi-Fi.

During a tour of the construction site on Oct. 17, league officials accepted a donation of $75,000 from Coventry Health Care of Florida, giving the HMO naming rights to the fitness center.

The money will go to the league’s capital campaign, according to Smith-Baugh. “It will help underwrite the cost of the construction,” she said.

The capital campaign goal is $8.2 million. The amount of funds raised to date was not disclosed.

Christopher Ciano, Coventry’s CEO, said that the HMO will work with the league “to make sure they have the right resources and programmatic view. All this will happen over time.”

The league has consistently promoted health and education, said Charles Gordon, league board member and JM Family Enterprise’s technology group vice president. “And this has been a long time coming for the Urban League. Going forward, this building will do a lot with respect to the necessary programs for the people in this area,” he said.

“And this is just the beginning,” added Smith-Baugh. “We will leverage the relationship to provide on-site healthy cooking demonstrations, prevention education classes, fitness … we plan to run a health series on a weekly or monthly basis. It will be open to anyone in the community who wants to come.”

For more information on the Community Empowerment Center, site tours or additional naming opportunities, call the Urban League of Broward County at

954-584-0777 or visit Cynthia Roby may be reached at

Photo: ULBC President: Germaine Smith-Baugh