Students, city councilor advocate for new community center amid pushback

News

There is new pushback against the plan for a $5.5 million community center at Central and Tramway, but a city councilor is fighting back, claiming it will fill a gap in services for hundreds of children and adults.

The nearly 15,000 square foot space on the east end of Singing Arrow Park would boast gaming, fitness and craft rooms, classrooms and meeting spaces.

“The construction drawings are being done right now,” City Councilor Don Harris said.

The site plan was approved by the Environmental Planning Commission on Jan. 10 and the public has until Jan. 25 to appeal the decision.

Some neighbors have complained from the start that more planning and studies should have been done, and claim that the extra foot traffic by the homeless and others would boost crime.

“The majority of us think that it’s not the best use of city money,” neighbor Jan Bond said in 2018.

In letters sent to the EPC in recent months, some wrote that the city should instead renovate and expand the existing 5,000 square foot community center already at the park.

City Councilor Don Harris, along with students and teachers, are now rallying in support of the project. 

The project has been appealed multiple times, but now the updated site plans include a slightly bigger facility with better pedestrian access and better lighting.

Harris said it’ll be a game changer for low-income families.

“A new community center would allow us to go from kindergarten all the way up to young adulthood and have before and after-school programs for the families here that need it,” Harris explained.

Local students want to advocate for adding the community center to their side of the city, where they say resources are lacking.

“Education matters to us kids and that they shouldn’t be holding down the project because as soon as we get the new community center, more kids can get a better education,” fifth-grader Leah Lopez said.

If someone files an appeal of the EPC’s decision, the issue will then go to the Land Use Hearing Officer, who will then make a recommendation for city councilors to vote on the matter.

Councilor Harris said he will recuse himself from the vote if it gets to that point.

The project is being funded through G.O. bonds and money from the state.

Harris said construction could start as early as this summer if the project keeps moving forward without objection.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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