The Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, which serves more than 1,800 Island children each year, has signed a preliminary agreement to buy 21 acres of land for an eventual new campus in Edgartown, club leaders confirmed this week.

The property, owned by the family of Philip J. (Jeff) Norton Jr., is a wooded stretch of undeveloped land located deep off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road between Sweetened Water Farm and the town recreational area and cemetery.

A purchase and sale agreement with the Norton family gives the club 14 months to come up with the agreed-upon price of $2.8 million. A capital campaign will be launched shortly, club leaders said.

Land plan shows locus of 21 acres.

“This is the start of a big dream,” said club executive director Jessie Damroth, who spoke to the Gazette this week about the agreement along with board president Michael Donaroma. Plans are still at a very early stage, with surveys of the property only just completed and many issues remaining to address with town and regional land use boards. But the purchase agreement caps a whirlwind season of change for an organization that has been serving Island youth since the 1930s.

The club, housed for years in a bare-bones, overcrowded facility off Robinson Road in Edgartown, is a vital resource for working parents on the Island and their children, offering after-school programs, summer camp, community service and sports programming. In 2018, nearly all 1,800 children served were eligible for free and reduced lunch, a federal support program for low-income families. Annual membership costs $20.

Last winter, the club’s board of directors saw major turnover when a number of longtime members left. The new members include a school committee member, a high school swim coach, a town administrator, a builder and a former police chief. Mr. Donaroma, a selectman, business owner and Edgartown native who attended the club as a youth himself, took over as president in January.

With a new board, the ink barely dry on a strategic plan, and a building committee just formed, the opportunity to buy the property came earlier than expected, Mr. Donaroma said. But given the ideal location, practically next door to the existing club, there was no choice but to act.

“It’s mind-boggling how quickly this has been able to come together,” he said. “We weren’t ready for it, but it came across,” Ms. Damroth agreed.

Eventually, club leaders hope to build a new building, a playground, multipurpose playing fields and housing for staff on the property.

A subdivision plan has been drawn for the property, in part because the Norton family will retain ownership of the familiar large field fronting the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.

The future new facility will not be visible from the road, and access is planned from a still-undetermined interior area, not the West Tisbury Road, Mr. Donaroma said. Plans will need to clear both the Edgartown planning board and Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

"We look forward to working with the town on this," Mr. Donaroma said.

Ms. Damroth said the location of the land near the existing club, the Edgartown School, the library and public safety buildings is ideal.

“It’s not just a building. It’s a campus. Truly a hub of youth activity,” she said, describing a vision for the future.

Club leaders are committed to keeping the existing facility open through the building process, but could eventually sell it after the new building is completed as one way to help defray costs.

They said the club’s connection to the network of Boys and Girls clubs across the country has already proved invaluable, paving the way for a well-informed design and capital campaign.

“They’ve done everything a hundred times,” Mr. Donaroma said, speaking of the national club.

In a statement, Jim Clark, president and chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, praised the initiative.

“Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club has been serving youth for more than 80 years, and is a critical part of the community. This project . . . represents the next phase, “ he said in part.

Mr. Donaroma and Ms. Damroth also credited Reid Silva of Vineyard Land Surveying for his work in surveying the property and helping with preliminary drawings.

Space is a major limitation in the existing facility near the Edgartown School, where more than 130 children from all six towns assemble each day for after school programs. Brimming with after-school energy, children crowd into a gymnasium, a modest recreation room, and an art room.

The building dates to the 1970s and is ailing according to a recent review the club conducted as part of the strategic planning process. In February, the club received a $100,000 emergency grant from MV Youth for urgent facilities needs, including security issues and the failing gymnasium ceiling. Flooring in the recreation room is uneven, and there is no bathroom designated for staff among other issues.

Ms. Damroth and Mr. Donaroma said they were inspired this winter by visits to other Boys and Girls clubs in New York, Boston and Roxbury. There are some 4,600 clubs around the country. Mr. Donaroma said he was struck by the amount of space in other buildings intended for the same number of children. He described art rooms, music rooms, even recording studios.

“It’s just unbelievable what these clubs can offer,” Mr. Donaroma said. “We offer a lot but it’s all in one room.”

In Roxbury, children have an exchange program with kids in India and travel to compete in swimming. Other clubs also offer extensive workforce development curriculums. Ms. Damroth said she envisions a club that serves Island youth from kindergarten through high school.

Founded in 1931 as the Edgartown Boys club, the organization has served generations of children from its location in the Island’s oldest town. Mr. Donaroma and Ms. Damroth said it’s fitting that the club’s next chapter can begin there too.

“The club has played an important role in this town,” Ms. Damroth said.

Mr. Donaroma said as they contemplate the extensive work ahead, board members return to a simple mantra to stay on task.

“It’s can we do this, can we do that . . . then somebody will say, it’s about the kids,” he said. “And it’s like, okay we’ve got to do it.”