The Orange County Commissioners were out in full force, along with other community leaders, to break ground on the Rogers Road Community Center on Thursday.
“Three years ago, I thought this day would never come. But I’m very happy that it has.”
That’s Orange County Interim Manager Michael Talbert, speaking from behind the podium, as he opened the ceremony for the Rogers Road Community Center on Edgar Street.
All of the Commissioners were present, as well as Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, and a few members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
They were there, along with leaders and members of the Rogers Road community, to celebrate the start of construction for the 4,000-square-foot facility.
Actually, construction work has already begun. Riggs-Harrod Builders has cleared the site, and utility work is next.
When the building is completed by late fall (if projections are correct), it will include a basketball court, as well as a multi-purpose space – ideal for dances, classes, book group meetings and pot luck dinners.
And it will replace the aging facility that was used as a community center on Purefoy Drive until it was shut down in 2012 for failing to meet safety codes.
Commissioner Renee Price spoke at Thursday’s event about the day she heard that news.
“It was shattering,” said Price. “You know, I couldn’t believe it when I heard the words that the Community Center was closed. But, immediately, people said we’re not going to let this happen. It’s going to continue.
“And it did. We persevered, and it happened.”
Two years may seem like a long time to get to the point where dirt is being moved for a building project.
But in government terms, as Commissioner Barry Jacobs pointed out, it’s relatively quick.
The new community center is the product of cooperation between Orange, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. And there’s more.
Credit went to the Task Force first appointed by Commissioners in 2012; as well as Habitat for Humanity, which owns the land, and has granted a 20-year lease with renewable options.
Architect Patric LeBeau of Durham firm Perkins + Will worked for free as the leading designer.
And much credit went to Rogers Road Community leaders Minister Robert Campbell and David Caldwell. The latter is set for an election runoff with Charles Blackwood for Orange County Sheriff.
Campbell and Caldwell have been at the forefront of a battle to fulfill a 40-year-old promise to provide the center to a community that got saddled with a hazardous landfill for all those years.
In his remarks, Caldwell recalled a conversation he had a few months ago with Campbell during Snowpocalypse 2014.
“We were out helping people shovel sidewalks and porches and everything,” said Caldwell. “And there were families walking around. We said, ‘Couldn’t you just see us with the kids riding sleds down the street? Hot chocolate out on the patio? Families sitting around talking? Because there are so many different families walking with nothing to do.
“That’s what we missed when we lost our building. But it’s back.”