By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CLIFTON - This Cincinnati neighborhood's community center reopens today after a fire shut it down in October, leaving hundreds of families scrambling to make arrangements.
The Clifton Community Center on McAlpin Avenue has been remodeled with new paint, windows and air ducts throughout most of the building. There also is a new gymnasium with skylights, new roofing in areas and other amenities.
A grand reopening May 24 - "The Phoenix Festival" to symbolize the rising of the center from ashes - will feature a parade with puppets the children are crafting, live music, refreshments and more.
"Everybody is back home," says Clifton mother Arnelle Dow, whose children belong to the center.
"We are happy. We are excited. It's hard when you're misplaced because of a fire and confined to a classroom or auditorium but we still managed to do most of our activities."
The reopening comes just in time for summer day camps and a walk-in community program for children ages 12 to 15.
Faulty wiring in the center office sparked the Oct. 19 fire that caused about $340,000 in damage. Offices were destroyed and most of the building suffered extensive smoke and water damage.
City insurance covered some of the cost, but it isn't yet known how much, said Bunny Arszman, spokeswoman for the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.
Since the fire, hundreds of children and adults were shifted to other, nearby neighborhood recreation centers and Clifton School next door for athletic leagues, creative arts classes, club activities and after-school day care.
The city put the renovations on the fast track by having contractors already working for the city make sure it was ready for summer. Every program at the community center is filled to capacity, Arszman noted.
"We have kind of been gypsies since it burned," says Deborah Grayson, a Clifton mother of two whose youngest daughter, Kate Meizlish, 11, has been going to after-school day care there since kindergarten.
The first community meeting takes place today at 7:30 p.m. when the neighborhood association, Clifton Town Meeting, convenes its monthly meeting.
Since the fire, the group has met in a nearby church.
"We're back," said Joe Goeldner, one of the community center's directors. "We are open as a family. Bring them in."
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