SCHENECTADY — The Miracle on Craig Street is clearing hurdles toward its dream to reopen the Carver Community Center.
The Schenectady City Council will discuss donating the Carver Community Center building, along with five other parcels of land adjacent to the building to be used for parking, to the group during its committee meetings on Monday.
It’s an important step for the group in working toward its goal of raising $1.5 million for the total cost of the project.
The community center closed in 2013 and has remained vacant after several failed attempts to auction the building off. The city currently has ownership of the building.
Rosa Rivera, board chairwoman of the Miracle on Craig Street, said it will be three years in August since the group — made up of more than 100 volunteers — began trying to secure ownership of the building and reopen it for the Hamilton Hill community.
“We’ve done a lot of work on planning, getting partners signed on, development planning, sustainability planning and leveraging our resources for this project,” Rivera said. “So, I’m very grateful our hard work is being recognized and that [the City Council] are in a place now where they are able to support us.”
The group worked with TAP, the Troy Architecture Practice, to do a feasibility study on the building. Rivera said they learned through the study that the total cost of the project would come out to approximately $1.5 million.
In the meantime, the group has been putting together various grant applications, while also trying to raise money online, so it can cover the total project cost.
The city released its allocations of the $2 million it received in federal Community Development Block Grant funding in March.
In there, it allocated $150,000 to the Miracle on Craig Street to rehabilitate the community center.
The group has also put in several other grant applications to get them closer to the total project cost, according to Rivera.
They applied for a $250,000 grant from the Schenectady Foundation. They also requested grant funding from the Bender Family Foundation, which she said could amount to approximately $10,000, and a request for a $25,000 grant from the B’nai B’rith Gideon Foundation.
The group has also raised close to $37,000 of its $200,000 goal on its YouCaring page.
If the group receives all of this funding, Rivera said that would put them just about $50,000 shy to be in a competitive position to apply for the state Green and Grey Infrastructure grant. Rivera said she is unsure how much money the group will be applying for, adding that she wants to see how much it will get from the other grants before it knows how much they’ll need to ask for.
If the council does turn the property over to the group before May, Rivera said it will be able to apply to be on the National Register of Historic Places, which would allow it to be eligible to apply for more grant funding.
Rivera said the group will also be launching a capital campaign during the summer, but said it wanted to have the two larger grants from the city and the Schenectady Foundation before they do so.
“We’re looking to have all of the money raised by spring 2019 so we can start construction,” Rivera said.
The building has “good bones,” Rivera said, even if what’s inside the building tells a different story.
The paint is peeling off the walls, several windows have been smashed and the floor tiling crunches with each step.
Rivera said there will be a lot of work done on the building once the group can start moving forward.
This includes installing a new gym floor, removing asbestos and putting new insulation on the roof. Rivera said it would also need to add new furnishings, make mechanical and plumbing upgrades, and install new flooring throughout the building.
The group also have reached out to several organizations for programming in the building, mainly focusing on health and wellness.
This includes Union College’s Kenney Center, which would provide volunteer opportunities for students; Citizen Action’s voter registration program and community engagement workshops; and hopefully a community outreach office from the Schenectady City School District.
“Those are the kind of partners we are looking for,” Rivera said. “Organizations who have programming and expertise in areas of health, wellness, nutrition, diet, healing or trauma care type work.”
Rivera is passionate when she talks about the community center. That’s because she doesn’t see it as “some generic community center.” It means a lot more than that to the community.
“I think that the community center is huge for the people of Hamilton Hill because a lot of the people have been invested in this project from the beginning,” Rivera said. “A lot of the events and planning we have done around this project have included and been carried out by the people who live in and around this neighborhood.”
City Council President Ed Kosiur views the community center as an important project as well. That’s why he told council members in an email that they need to act quickly, so that the group could begin applying for grant funding. He said not only will the council be discussing giving the group ownership of the building, but also asking them what else the council could do to help.
Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who lives in the Hamilton Hill neighborhood, said she’s very impressed by the work done by the Miracle of Craig Street group to reopen the community center. She said it’s important for the city and the council to try to help groups looking to improve the community on their own.
Once the center is open, Porterfield said it will be good for the Hamilton Hill neighborhood to have a place to meet and congregate.
“I think it’s important for the community to have a place to go,” Porterfield said.
If you’re interested in donating to the project, visit www.youcaring.com/schenectadycares.