If land acquisition and building go as planned, Fort Worth residents could see a new community center built by 2014, near the 109 at the corner of West Biddison Street and Hemphill Street.

The proposed center would be one of the closest community centers to the 109, along with the Como Community Center to the northwest and the Fire Station Community Center to the northeast. All three community centers are within two miles of the 109. There are no community centers in the 109.

Community members at a Nov. 4 public meeting about the proposed South Central Community Center gave near-unanimous support to the site. Councilman Joel Burns said this voice of support gave the city the green-light to start negotiations about obtaining the property.

In 2004, $2.5 million was set-aside in the city’s Capital Improvement Program for a community center serving the area between West Berry Street, Interstate 35W, West Seminary Drive and Granbury Road.

Burns said Capital Improvement Program bonds were usually set aside for streets, but in 2004 money was set aside for park improvements and community centers. In 2004, $7.5 million was budgeted for three community centers. One community center, Northpark in far north Fort Worth, has already been built. The South Central Community Center will be the second and the third is in the planning stage. The third community center will be located in southwest Fort Worth at Southwest Community Park.

Samantha Graham, recreation programmer at the Fire Station Community Center, said community centers offer services such as gymnasiums, computer labs, after school and summer camp programs, exercise centers and youth sports leagues.

“We’re a pretty big asset for our area especially for young families,” Graham said. “Our center is used quite frequently.”
Burns said that he wanted to get the community center building process underway because the $2.5 million would be able to buy less because of inflation.

The purpose of the meeting was to determine whether to use the money to build a new community center or to renovate three existing community centers in the area, he said.

“What I was looking for was a clear indication of what the community wanted,” Burns said. “I wanted to make it a community-led process, and it was unanimous in terms of wanting to have a new one built.”

Laura Rios of the Worth Heights neighborhood voiced her support for the construction of a new community center. She said if the money was used for renovations and not building a new center, it would leave out a group of people who really need a community center.

Burns said that there is a need for a center in the area that is in “a bit of a hole” with regards to having a community center with TCU to the west, Greenbriar Community Center to the south, Worth Heights Community Center to the east and Fire Station Community Center to the north.

The proposed location is a four-acre plot at the northeast corner of West Biddison Street and Hemphill Street. The public support for the location at the meeting was near unanimous.

Rios said that the property was easily accessible and that it would make a good site.

Burns said he was happy with the location and the strong community consensus given on the location. Burns said he liked how the location was on a major bus line and traffic corridor and was at an intersection of multiple neighborhoods.

The location is between the neighborhoods of Shaw Clarke, Rosemont and Worth Heights.

“We have not acquired the property yet, but it gives us the green light to go ahead and start with those negotiations,” he said.

The next step

Burns said the next step was to negotiate acquiring the property and then to find out what the surrounding community would want in a new center. There will be a series of public meetings held in the spring to determine the desires of community members.

“I want to make sure we do the planning process right so this will be something that will be here for 50 years,” Burns said. “I want to do this correctly and build the center that the community desires and one that is geared to those next 50 years.”

Burns said the functions for community centers are changing. Preliminary community input meetings listed computer labs and learning centers among top priorities for a new community center.

“We will be able to design the space around programming goals,” Burns said. “To take a different form to accommodate the function. It gives us an excellent opportunity to design it from the ground up.”

The city plans to start design on the new center next year after receiving community input and hopes to have the center constructed and opened by the spring of 2014, he said.

“Long overdue”

Rios said that she had heard discussions of putting a community center in that area since she was a child.

“We were promised a center years back,” she said. “We are long overdue. I’m excited about this and hope it goes forward.”

Rios said the community members from the surrounding area are a tightly knit group and are generally soft spoken on public issues.

“We’ve never had to fight for anything, and this time we rallied together,” Rios said. “We see what can come with us coming together.”

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