Construction kicks off in WhaleyvillePublished 10:37pm Thursday, September 26, 2013
Calling the project “Extreme Makeover: Whaleyville Edition,” city officials and Whaleyville residents came together Thursday afternoon to kick off construction on the new Whaleyville Community Center.
Set to take over the old Robertson Elementary School, the community center will include exercise equipment, a full-size gymnasium and a computer lab. The city set aside $3 million for the project.
Councilman Curtis Milteer said the investment represents a substantial amount for the southern part of the city, which is rural and, some say, has been neglected by the city in recent years.
“Never before has this type of money been spent in this area,” Councilman Curtis Milteer of the Whaleyville borough said at the event. “We’re going to stand together and see this project to the end.”
Many nearby residents came to the event and said they are excited about the project.
“I’m thankful there’s an opportunity for extended use of the property,” said Howard Benton, chairman of the Planning Commission and lifelong resident of the area. “I think it’s the right thing to do to extend the public use of this building and offer public services. It will offer the people opportunities they would not drive elsewhere to get.”
School Board member Phyllis Byrum said the beginning of construction on the project was a “wonderful day.”
“The after-school program will be wonderful for our kids in this area,” she said.
Buildings and Capital Programs Director Gerry Jones said construction on the project, which was designed by McEntire Design and will be constructed by A.R. Chesson, should be complete within a year.
“We are excited to see this investment in this community,” Parks and Recreation Director Lakita Watson said. “We saw what could happen at East Suffolk Recreation Center, and the growth and what that did to that community. Our goal is to enhance the quality of life in this community and all of the surrounding areas.”
The Obici Healthcare Foundation contributed $250,000 to the project to fully fund the purchase of the exercise equipment.
The last day of school at Robertson was in 2011, when it and Mount Zion Elementary School were closed because of budget cuts. The School Board transferred the empty building to the city later that year.