CHAPEL HILL — Local government leaders and residents broke ground Thursday on the site of the new Rogers Road Community Center, two years after the old center was forced to close.
“Government does move slowly, but relatively speaking, this project has moved quickly,” said Barry Jacobs, chairman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. His whole board showed up for the event, along with several elected officials from Carrboro and Chapel Hill.
The county has approved $650,000 for the 4,000-square-foot building and has talked with the towns about chipping in, said project manager Jeffrey Thompson, the county’s director of asset management services. No final agreement has been reached.
Losing the old center was a blow to the Rogers Road community, a historically black, working-class community next to the county landfill. The Campus Y, Orange County Literacy Council and others helped provide programs there such as tutoring, literacy classes, a summer camp and a food pantry that fed 40 families a month.
The Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association asked the local governments to help pay for a new center, when the old center was forced to close because it lacked a permit and did not meet safety codes. That center was located at the end of Edgar Street.
The county voted to go ahead with the project in January. It is leasing the land from Habitat for Humanity of Orange County and contracting with RENA to operate the center when it opens later this year.
“When the doors were closed, it was shattering,” county Commissioner Renee Price said. “I just look forward to the day when I’ll again hear laughter, chatter and the sort of programs that will sustain the community.”
The center is located on Edgar Street, in Habitat’s Phoenix Place within the larger Rogers Road community. The neighborhood of one-story homes with a new playground down the street is home to many Burmese refugee, African-American and Latino families.
The Rev. Robert Campbell joined fellow neighborhood leaders David Caldwell and Carl Purefoy in donning orange hard hats and turning shovels Thursday.
“If people can work together and there is dialogue, regardless of what our differences might be, the end result is something we have shaped and formed together,” he said. “This is what collaboration is all about.”
Staff writer Tammy Grubb contributed to this report.