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Schenectady group inches closer to reopening community center

Schenectady group inches closer to reopening community center

The group is in an option agreement to purchase the building on April 22
Schenectady group inches closer to reopening community center
The exterior of the former Carver Community Center is seen in this file photo taken on April 17, 2017.
Photographer: Marc Schultz/Gazette Photographer

SCHENECTADY -- The Miracle on Craig Street launched another fundraising challenge last week as it is just $120,000 short of its funding goal to reopen the Carver Community Center.

Rosa Rivera, board chairwoman of the Miracle on Craig Street, said the group, which is made up of more than 100 volunteers, has approximately $180,000 on hand. The additional $120,000 would be the “bare minimum” needed to not only fund repairs or restoration of the mechanical engineering and plumbing for the building, but also purchase it from the city next April. 

The group hopes have the facility open to the public by fall 2019, Rivera said.

“I think, at this point, we feel we’re really close,” Rivera said. “We feel we’re very close.”

The group has been working since 2015 to raise money to renovate and reopen the Carver Community Center.

The community center closed its doors in 2013 and has remained vacant since, even after several attempts to auction it off.

While the city owns the building, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution in April that would allow the group to enter into an option agreement to purchase the building, along with five adjacent parcels.

Rivera said the agreement went into effect on October 22, giving the group six months to raise the necessary funds to purchase the property.

The City Council approved approximately $3 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding in July, which included $150,000 allocated for the reopening of the community center.

The group had already raised approximately $37,000 through its YouCaring page prior to the CDBG funding allocation.

Rivera said The Miracle on Craig Street partnered up with the COCOA House and the Hamilton Hill Arts Center to submit an application toward the Schenectady Foundation’s Thriving Neighborhoods Challenge for $80,000 Phoenix Walks project.

The project is meant to create an art walk that connects the three different organizations. Rivera said $35,000 of that funding would assist the Miracle on Craig Street’s efforts to renovate the park located on the community center’s property. She said they want to be able to open the park up to the community before the actual community center is open.

Rachel Conn, executive director of the Hamilton Hill Arts Center, said its portion would include creating sculptures in the park across from the arts center. She said the rest of the project would include painting a mural on the path connecting the organizations that would celebrate the accomplishments of African descendants.

Conn said she supports the efforts of the Miracle on Craig Street. She said her organization is even giving their members office space at the arts center while they work to reopen the community center.

“This community definitely needs a lot," Conn said of the Hamilton Hill neighborhood. “We need as many options for children and community members that we can get.”

Members of the Miracle on Craig Street will be joined by students from the Washington Irving Adult and Continuing Education Center on Tuesday to clean up the building to prepare for upcoming contractor walk-throughs and environmental testing. Rivera said that Tuesday's event is not open to the public. 

Rivera explained that the walkthroughs will enable contractors to determine whether items such as the building's boiler and mechanical system still work. Contractors will also look to see if any plumbing and electrical repairs need to be made. 

While there is asbestos in the building that needs to be removed, Rivera said that is something that is included in their budget.

Rivera said the total cost of the project is still expected to be around $1 million, according to estimates the organization has received from contractors. While it was originally expected cost $1 million, she said a lot of labor and materials have been donated to the organization, which has driven the cost down a bit.

River also said her organization continues to apply for more grant funding.

With the deadline to purchase the building set, the cleanup on Tuesday and the meeting with various contractors to get estimates, Rivera said it feels like things are falling into place, even after nearly four years of work to reopen the building.

“We didn’t want to rush through this process,” Rivera said. “I think it was really important to have pace and make sure it was a community effort. That really takes time.”

For those looking to donate to the project, visit gofundme.com/miracle518

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