When Camp JCC, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington’s day camp, opened this week, the 500 campers met not at the center building in Rockville, but at the nearby lower school of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School.
The 46-year-old center building is in the second week of major renovations and activities are being moved as hard-hatted workers upgrade preschool classrooms and other areas where campers normally gather.
The aging building needs to be modernized to succeed in an increasingly competitive and diverse market, said CEO Michael Feinstein.
“People are coming here for preschool, for BBYO and Israel Scouts. They’re looking for space to have celebrations,” he said. “But the building isn’t matching the quality of our programming. Our two pools have hit their life expectancy. We probably have the last chalkboards in Montgomery County.”
The JCC is in the county’s White Flint 2 sector, 290 acres around Rockville Pike slated for mixed-use development. That will bring more young families and people without children to the area, Feinstein said.
“They’re not going to be excited about coming into a building that was built in 1969,” he said.
This summer’s renovations are the first of three phases. During the second phase, in the fall and winter, the center will update its outdoor pool and family locker room. In the third, scheduled for summer 2016, the indoor pool and lockers, and the café will be renovated.
Camp JCC is in high demand, and the center turns away applicants, Feinstein said. In response, the agency plans to increase the camp’s capacity in ways other than building more space. Holding activities at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, just across East Jefferson Street, is a way to allow the camp to grow, he said.
So is taking campers out a building entirely and onto the road for travel activities. “The more we do off-site, it gives us more of a chance to increase enrollment,” Feinstein said.
The JCC is raising $12 million to pay for its renovations. The agency raised $10 million before launching a community capital campaign in May. The Bender Foundation made an anchor donation of $1.75 million.
As areas of the building go in and out of operation, the JCC will inform members with email blasts and updates on its website.
Other phase I improvements include the art and dance studios, the gallery and the social hall. A rendering of the social hall shows a comfortable space with a futuristic ceiling of what appears to be star lights.
Said Feinstein, “We already have bookings for two bar and bat mitzvahs.”