The facility aims to provide opportunity for underserved youth in the community.

On Friday, the Columbus Urban League debuted its new Huntington Empowerment Center in an open house premier that included live music, light bites, a champagne toast and a number of high-profile speakers.

“Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, this amazing building is reborn,” Urban League president and CEO Stephanie Hightower proclaimed during her opening remarks.

The nearly-90-year-old building that now houses the HEC once was home to retail shops and apartments. The Urban League acquired it in 2012, after it had emptied and fallen into disrepair. Now, the once-abandoned building in the King-Lincoln District is home to a number of Urban League programs designed to help underserved youth in the community.

The 6,500-square-foot facility houses an outpost of My Brother’s Closet, the Urban League’s social enterprise boutique for low-income men in need of business attire; a Minority Business Assistance Center; and KEWL Academy, a hands-on learning lab for youth. The KEWL (Kids Empowered Will Learn) Academy aims to engage middle- and high-school students in STEAM subjects—science, technology, engineering, art and math.

“The Huntington Empowerment Center reflects the vision and discipline needed to move communities out of poverty,” said Hightower in a press release about the HEC. “Its opening coincides with our 100th anniversary celebration and our hosting of the National Urban League Conference. Thanks to strong leadership from the City, County, Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority and private entities like Huntington, we prove that standing together for greater economic mobility helps more families achieve their full potential.”

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, herself a former youth member of the Urban League, gave a few remarks about the impact the HEC will have on the community, closing with a request that attendees consider what they’re doing to help the community improve as well. Other speakers included Mayor Andy Ginther and Huntington president and CEO Steve Steinouer.

 “My vision for our city is to become America’s opportunity city. … You can’t become America’s opportunity city if you don’t first become America’s equal opportunity city,” Ginther said, adding that the HEC is positioned to help the city achieve exactly that status.