Workers are wrapping up construction of the new residential treatment complex on the north end of the Children’s Square U.S.A. campus at North Sixth Street and Avenue E. Children’s Square has a license to occupy the building effective Aug. 18, said Carol Wood, president and CEO. A dedication will probably be held in late September or early October.

The project was handled by The Schemmer Associates architecture firm and Lund-Ross Constructors, Wood said.

“It’s been a wonderful team,” she said. “It’s been on budget or under budget.”

Consultants from Project Advocates helped keep it on time and on budget, she said.

The weather has aided construction in some ways, not so much in others, said Ben Gifford, construction supervisor for Lund-Ross.

“The winter was mild but odd,” he said. “The temperatures were good, but we dealt with rain. It was the muddiest site I’ve ever worked on.”

Clients and board members got to tour the facility during the last board meeting, Wood said. Parents were set to get their turn this weekend, and alumni will have an opportunity to tour it during the annual alumni event next weekend.

“When the kids came in, they were just in awe,” she said. “They’re so excited. It’s not a prison-looking place or a hospital-looking place.”

The 23,880-square-foot complex includes three cottages — two for boys and one for girls — and a shared multipurpose area — all in a single structure. An existing cottage for girls, Cottonwood, will remain in service.

The project was financed through the $9 million Children’s Square Better Spaces, Brighter Futures Capital Campaign. Co-chairs for the drive were Dr. Alan Fisher and Dick Miller, along with their wives, Cordie Fisher and the late Deanna Miller. Honorary co-chairs for the fund drive were Mayor Matt Walsh and his wife, Barbara; the late Bill Ramsey and his wife, Pat; and Maria Fernandez.

The residentwial treatment complex will replace three existing dormitories that are outdated and no longer meet the safety, supervision and security needs to care for children with significant emotional and behavioral challenges. The new facility will have the necessary bedroom and bathroom configurations, programming space and a storm shelter.

“What we really needed was more single bedrooms and better safety and security,” Wood said.

Each cottage has its own kitchen, 14 beds and rooms for programming, she said. The residences have new furniture and appliances. Aside from three double rooms, all of the bedrooms are single.

Altogether, the cottages have a total of 54 beds, although Children’s Square is currently only licensed for 42 residents, Wood said. That gives staff the flexibility to group residents according to age, condition, interests or other factors. And, if the state approved a higher limit, the facility could serve additional youth.

Features were chosen with safety and security in mind. The building is always locked from the outside but not from the inside. The units feature induction stoves, which only heat up when a certain kind of cookware is placed over the heating elements, Wood said. Light fixtures are all built-in — there are no lamps that could be knocked over or thrown. Tables are heavy, and curtain rods and hooks are break-away. Window blinds have no strings. And the walls are reinforced to resist damage.

The common area has a TV area, a living room with no TV, a conference room, a comfort room with no door, a locking storage area, a kitchenette, and a staff station, Wood said.

“Right now, staff sit in the hallway at night,” she said.

“We’ve never had a storm shelter,” she said. “They’re under mattresses in the hallways” when a storm comes now.

The shelter has tables and chairs, so it can be used as a classroom or conference room. The room could also be used to show movies — or tables and chairs could be moved to one side so it could be used for fitness classes. The shelter also has restrooms, in case residents need to be in it for an extended period of time.

The project has been rewarding because the building is for the youth, said Lund-Ross’s Gifford.

“I didn’t realize the impact it would have until they got to see the results last week,” he said.

Said Wood, “It’s an amazing building, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the community stepping up to give so generously.”

After residents move into the new complex, two of the former cottages will be converted into temporary schoolhouses so the academic center on campus can be renovated. Lund-Ross is also doing that project. The academic center houses the special education program for grades 1 through 12.

The current academic center is housed in a 5,380-square-foot, two-story building originally built in 1913 as a dormitory. It has since been divided into six classrooms but lacks space for a library, computer lab or lunchroom. It is not handicap accessible and has just one bathroom stall on each floor.

In addition to young people in the residential treatment program, the academic center serves students in the Council Bluffs community and surrounding school districts who qualify for the facility’s level of special education instruction.