Sunnyvale Community Center / by SHOKO SMITH

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Along a busy stretch of 39th South near 6th west in Salt Lake County, The Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center is tucked among warehouses and small manufacturing businesses.   Here, a growing number ofrefugees and immigrants residing in the Sunnyvale Neighborhood receive English language classes, after-school programs, and other services. 

Local architects, like GSBS’ Soonju Kwon, Tang Yang and Kevin Miller, and engineers provided design services, permitting and construction assistance to add 1,350 square feet to the Center.  This additional flexible space will help the Center continue to provide services and programs that benefit the refugee and immigrant community.

According to Soonju Kwon, the center, which was first located in a two bedroom apartment in the Sunnyvale Apartment Complex, relocated to the strip center, and now has expanded to serve people living nearby. She said members of the firm worked in cooperation with the Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah which operates the Center, Salt Lake County, and other businesses which volunteered their services, including VBFA and Manuel Masbernat who volunteered the engineering consulting.

Kwon said services at the Center include English classes, afterschool programs, citizenship classes, financial literacy workshops, mobile health clinics, nutrition education and more. “In the summer, they even have a farmers market and meat vendor which is supported by a USDA grant, to provide fresh produce and meat to the residents which don't have a full-service grocery store in the neighborhood,” she said.

Residents face many barriers created by this location in the intersection of four cities (South Salt Lake, Murray, Taylorsville, and Unincorporated Millcreek) and the unincorporated area of Salt Lake County. 

Salt Lake County's Community Innovation Manager, Ze Min Xiao, said the location means the area falls outside the service areas for funding from those cities.  Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center was formed to bridge this gap. The County provided $100,000 last year to enhance services in the area,  but she said businesses like GSBS Architects who provide pro bono services help us to extend the opportunities.  She said nearly 13% of SLC County's population is foreign born and the goal is to help them succeed. She said,  “The county recognizes the potential of the neighborhood, and county and private resources are needed help these 'New Americans' succeed.”