RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond's Southside Community Center could start to see the beginnings of some highly anticipated construction upgrades as soon as this week. Those upgrades could nearly double the size of the center.
As part of a nearly $20 million, multi-year investment, Phase 2 of construction of the center will include an auxiliary gymnasium, a boxing studio, classrooms, a culinary teaching kitchen, a dance studio, and Richmond's first indoor playground.
Funding for the construction comes mostly from American Rescue Plan Act dollars, with roughly $6 million from Richmond City Council budget appropriations.
"The budget is coming in right now under $20 million. So, we have $2 million, potentially, in case some other costs override. Or, if we want to finish some of the other phases of the park," Chris Frelke, Richmond's Director of Parks and Recreation, said.
The facility will receive funding for about six full-time staff members, as well as seasonal positions.
Frelke said city agencies and nonprofits will be able to utilize the facility to host community events, with Richmond Parks and Recreation also planning on partnering with district schools to host events and programs.
Richmond City Councilman Mike Jones, who represents the 9th District and lives within walking distance of the center, said it's about more than just building a new addition.
At the groundbreaking for Phase 2 construction on Tuesday, Jones said he and other families in the community live with constant violence, citing hearing gunshots regularly in the neighborhood, recalling how a Richmond student was shot and killed while waiting for the morning bus several months ago.
Jones said this community center could be an outlet for kids at risk of becoming either involved with or a victim of violence.
"That's what life is like right here, where you're standing. And our job is to provide hope to this community, that what goes on in this community doesn't have to go on inside of them," Jones said. "We put dollars in, to make sure that we can run programming, because we can't just have these buildings and nothing going on inside of them, or no one to greet these young people as they come in."
Both Jones and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney spoke about the community center being an educational investment opportunity for Richmond's youth, citing the success of the skate park nearby that brings in community members from the city and neighboring counties.
"I'm passionate about this because I see what goes on," Jones said. "This isn't just a community center."
"It's really a center that can really transform our neighborhoods," Frelke said. "And so, what are the different pieces and aspects that can help build up our community? We want to see that happen here.
Though the original opening date was set for 2027 or 2028, city leaders fast-tracked the project so that the new community center could be up and running as early as next year. Renderings of the upgrades can be found here.
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