By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MOUNT WASHINGTON - Neighbors' lobbying efforts will pay off today when ground is broken for a $5.5 million community center in this Cincinnati neighborhood of about 12,000 residents.
A 1 p.m. ceremony will be held next to the existing center at 1715 Beacon St.
Cincinnati and Hamilton County leaders such as Mayor Charlie Luken, who also pushed for funding for the project, are expected to speak.
The one-story, 32,000-square-foot building will open in 2005 with two full-size gymnasiums. An elevated walking and running track will circle both gyms.
There also will be a fitness center, dance/karate room with a wood floor and other amenities.
Money to build the community center came from the city's capital improvement fund, but community leaders also are raising money for additional equipment and programs, said Mark Celsor, a service area coordinator for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.
"It's a community effort," he said. "We have a goal close to raise $100,000 and have around $25,000 already from community events and other community fund raising over the years."
Mary Anne Berry, a Mount Washington resident and community activist, is calling for needy neighborhood children to either use thecenter for free or at a reduced cost.
The youngsters, she says, need a place to go after school so they aren't walking the streets or getting into trouble.
"We have to provide a safe haven for children so they can learn dignity, self-worth and self-esteem," she said. "Many of these kids have no place to go after school because they don't have the money for the rec center."
There are fees at the current center for after-school programs and summer day camps. Celsor said part of the fund-raising could help pay for scholarships for children and others.
"Our fees are very reasonable but even with that, there are some people in the community who can't afford those," he said.
Overall, programs at the current, 6,000-square-foot center are limited because the 50-year-old building is small and harder for senior citizens to access, he said.
Once the new center opens, more programs and classes will be offered for preschoolers, teens, adults and seniors.
The new center comes as Mount Washington's commercial district is hitting an all-time high for business tenants, signaling the success of a revitalization led by community leaders.
A $650,000 streetscape project along Beechmont Avenue is mostly completed and will be dedicated June 12 in front of Mount Washington Savings & Loan.
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