CANTON – There are plenty of great memories for Tiana Walker at the former Northeast Community Center.
She grew up on Root Avenue NE, a few blocks west. During the 1980s and 1990s, the building was a community hub for children. They used the pool, danced and played in the gymnasium.
“I made a lot of friendships here,” Walker said.
More:Learning to be entrepreneurs; program teaches Crenshaw students about starting a business
She and a group of Crenshaw Middle School teachers returned to the building at 2600 25th Street NE on Saturday, helping the building’s newest owner with a trunk-or-treat event, as well as an open house.
NWBC to offer recreation, classes
Hassan Anderson bought the property in 2019 and is working to revive the center. It’s now known as Northeast Wellness & Business Center, or NWBC.
Anderson has a company that offers services and works with the developmentally disabled and planned to use the center for his business. But he quickly learned that the neighborhood longed to have the former community center back.
He wants to use the center for recreational activities, business and financial literacy classes, and workforce development programs. There is room to provide the programs and offer services for the developmentally disabled clients.
More:Unsung Hero: Henry C. Mack fighting for his Canton neighborhood
Children living near the center helped Anderson realize the building could benefit the neighborhood. As he worked to clear the eight-acre site, neighborhood children helped with cleanup, he said. That showed him the building’s potential.
“The main thing is that the kids need something to do in the neighborhood,” Anderson said.
Saturday’s event was the first at the center. Anderson said he came up with the idea two weeks ago and was able to bring it together with help from staff at Crenshaw Middle and Youtz Intermediate schools.
Candy, pizza, and games
Outside he had bounce rooms and a dozen vehicles with people offering candy for kids. Inside, kids could get slices of pizza, shoot hoops in the gym and see the building. Prizes were awards for sack race winners and Anderson gave away televisions in drawings.
Crenshaw teachers and counselors were among those on hand with car trunks open to hand out candy.
“We’ve got to let them see that we are connected to the community,” Walker said. It’s good for students and their parents to see school teachers out in the community, she said. “It lets them know that we’re accessible.”
The Northeast Community Center was built in 1974 as a nonprofit operation. It featured an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, sauna, community rooms and gymnasium. The center relied on Community Development Block Grant funding and it closed in 2009 when funding ran dry.
Since then the building has had several owners. Attempts were made to establish family recreational centers and restaurants at the facility, but none succeeded.
Anderson said he has invested more that $700,000 to purchase and repair the building. He hopes to work with city on plans broaden the facility’s outreach in the neighborhood.
Canton Councilman Kevin Hall, D-6, who handed out candy during Saturday’s trunk-or-treat event, said residents believe the neighborhood would benefit from a revived center. He commended Anderson for the work he’s done to get the building in shape.
“We’re going to be sure he can keep this going,” Hall said.
Reach Edd at 330-580-8484 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @epritchardREP