By Greg Hernandez
More than 3,000 people helped celebrate the grand opening of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s two-acre Anita May Rosenstein Campus on April 7.
The state-of-the-art facility includes 100 beds for youth experiencing homelessness, the new Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Senior Center, youth drop-in center, and The Ariadne Getty Foundation Youth Academy.
Center CEO Lorri L. Jean told the cheering crowd: “This is our greatest legacy: the thousands of lives that will be saved and changed here. The joy and comfort and love that will reside here, and the confidence and pride that will be born here.”
“At a time in our nation when the highest leaders in the land are building a wall to keep the most vulnerable among us out, your Center has built a home to invite the most vulnerable in,” Jean added.
Jean was among those who participated in a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the $141 million Campus, which opened during the Center’s 50th anniversary year.
Joining her on a stage on McCadden Avenue were lead donor Anita May Rosenstein, donor Ariadne Getty, U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, Lily Tomlin, Kathy Griffin, and David Bailey, chair of the Campus Capital Campaign and co-chair of the Center’s Board of Directors.
“Love is strong in L.A. today,” Garcetti said in his remarks to the crowd. “This is a day in which we pull together. The message this sends here today is whether you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, whether you’re housed or unhoused, whether you’re young or not as young, no matter what color your hair, no matter what religion you practice: in Los Angeles and in this world, you belong.”
“It Will Bring Hope to Tens of Thousands of People”
Rosenstein, whose family foundations gave $8 million to the project, got a prolonged ovation from the crowd when she stepped up to the microphone.
“My grandparents taught me that if you can give, you must give,” she said. “The Campus is groundbreaking because it provides inter-generational living and support. It will bring love, it will bring hope to tens of thousands of people. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that I was part of this. I hope this will be life-changing.”
Schiff, a longtime supporter of the Center, was greeted like a rock star by the crowd.
“Two years ago many of us gathered very close to this spot to consider what had just happened in the presidential election and what it would mean for our country and what it would mean for the cause of equality,” Schiff recalled. “We knew there would be tough struggles ahead and, indeed, some of our worst fears have been realized. But we have stayed together, we have fought together, and we will prevail together. And we see just what we’re capable of when we see this magnificent new Campus.”
Ryu’s office worked closely with the Center in navigating various governmental hurdles. He called the Campus “the model for all others to follow.”
”We faced every kind of challenge and roadblock, but we stayed focused and committed to the promise of the Anita May Rosenstein Campus and what it would mean to the LGBT community,” he said.
Phase II Opens in Fall-2020
The Campus is now the Center’s flagship facility. The organization’s previous headquarters, the four-story McDonald/Wright Building, is being transformed entirely into a health center.
Phase II of the Campus is scheduled to open in 2020 and will include 99 units of affordable housing for seniors and 25 supportive housing apartments for youth.
Kuehl got one of the morning’s biggest laughs when she said: “Of course I supported this project—I’m 78 years old! I’m moving in!”
Tomlin and Griffin performed comedy routines for the crowd which was also treated to musical performances by Alexandra Billings, City of Sound, Brian Justin Crum, The Denise Fraser Band, Gizzle, Frankie Grande, Mariachi Arcoiris, Ezre Michel, Shangela, Trans Chorus of Los Angeles, Sam Tsui, Viento Callejero, VINCINT, and Betty Who.
“I’ll be sharing the penthouse with Sheila Kuehl and Lily Tomlin,” Griffin joked. “Let’s throw in Bette (Midler) and Cher.”
Prior to the ribbon cutting, longtime Center supporter Tomlin reflected on what the Campus will mean to the community.
“It’s spectacular and it’s so right for the people who are going to gain housing here—older and younger residents—learning from one another, helping sustain one another,” she said. “It’s really just a glorious thing.”
Taking A Look Inside
Members of the public were given guided tours of the 180,000-square-foot Campus throughout the morning and afternoon.
“Architecturally, it’s just really impressive,” Pasadena resident Jonathan Edwards said after his tour. “I love how the building embraces the California indoor-outdoor thing with all these amazing courtyards with these sliding glass doors. It just blew me away.”
Edwards was particularly moved by the history wall featured prominently in the Campus’ Pride Hall with highlights of the LGBT rights movement.
“It’s really fascinating and it’s important that people read it and see it,” he said. “The Center is just so at the forefront of the LGBT rights movement clearly and this new Campus highlights that.”
Attendee Darlene Gabriel also came away impressed after her tour of the Campus—especially the commercial teaching kitchen that houses a new Culinary Arts Program.
“We don’t have enough of this going on,” she said. “I especially like the culinary center where the youth can learn how to cook and actually get a job. I’m really happy to see all of this for the youth. They need to be given a chance.”
The kitchen will be staffed with youth (ages 18-24) and seniors (ages 50 and over) students who have completed a 12-week, 300-hour culinary training program.
Eric Gunter, who moved to Los Angeles from New York just last year, remarked on how visible the Campus is in the community.
“I’m just so glad there is the LGBT Center out here so prominently on Santa Monica Boulevard,” Gunter said. “We have so many kids who come out here with no place to go and a lot of those kids are LGBTQ. Having a Center such as this really serves as a beacon of hope. It lets them know that it’s okay to be themselves and that the Center is here to help them on their journeys.”
Among the celebrity guests at the block party were actor Tim Bagley, actor Jake Borelli, actress Lesley Ann-Brandt, actor Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, actor Wilson Cruz, actor Jordan Doww, actress Joely Fisher, actor Michael Hitchcock, YouTube star Miles Jai, choreographer Mark Kanemura, reality star Lala Kent, actor Bex Taylor-Klaus, actress Shira Lazar, YouTube star MacDoesIt, actor Johnny Sibilly, actor Darryl Stephens, actress-dancer Alyson Stoner, actor Jason Stuart, music producer Shawn Wasabi, and producer Eugene Lee Yang.
“It’s so shiny and new and beautiful and everything that it means for the future is just the coolest thing to me,” Taylor-Klaus of TV’s Arrow said. “The idea of youth and seniors together so everyone can learn from each other is exactly what we need. Everybody has something to teach whether they realize it or not and hopefully this way they’ll have a chance to realize it.”
Stephens, best-known for TV’s Noah’s Arc, declared that the new Campus is “showing the world that we are here, we’re not going anywhere, and we’re going to take care of each other. That is just incredibly important.”