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City Revitalizes Resource Center

Family Resource Learning Center emphasizes full-time education.

After more than 15 months, a renovated, enlarged and upgraded Family Resource Learning Center was officially dedicated Oct. 19. Its rebirth was a joint effort of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority and Alexandria City Public Schools.

At a cost of $183,599, the revitalized center at 910/912 Montgomery St. now houses two offices, a multi-purpose meeting room, a reading room, a computer laboratory, a food preparation area, and two restrooms. It is also handicapped accessible.

By combining two townhouse units within ARHA's westside public housing development, not only was the Learning Center able to be enlarged, but an adjacent satellite police station was also created within the same boundary. It has its own entrance and facilities separate from the center.

"This is a very important resource to have in this neighborhood. It is the result of so many people coming together to make this happen," Mayor William D. Euille told the crowd assembled in the rear yard area of the center.

"This is about meeting the needs of the community. It is not just a place to come after school," he said. Euille was joined at the dais by A. Melvin Miller, ARHA chair; Rebecca L. Perry, superintendent ACPS; William Dearman, ARHA executive director; Mary Danforth, ACPS chair; Dr. John A. Grymes, assistant superintendent, Federal and State Programs, ACPS; and Marye Ish, director, Housing Operations, ARHA, who served as master of ceremonies for the dedication.

"Now that this renovated center is a reality, we hope we will be able to create another and even larger center in the future," Perry said.

"All of our schools are represented at this center," Danforth noted.

"We are very thankful that we have this center. No one else in the area has a place like this. We are a unique city because we all work as a team," Grymes said.

"PEOPLE OFTEN LOOK at ARHA as just providing housing. What we are really about is making life better for people and this new center is a prime example of that goal," Miller said.

ARHA began the renovation process of the facility in the summer of 2004 by requesting that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allow the use of HOPE VI Community Supportive Service funds. HUD agreed to a revision of ARHA's budget to include the center renovations.

Original estimated costs were pegged at $80,000. However, after revisions, it was determined that a reclassification of the center would be required from residential to an education/business facility that would encompass both the Learning Center and police satellite office, according to Connie Lenox, director, ARHA Development.

"Given these significant changes, we contracted with SWSG architectural/engineering firm to complete a set of construction documents for the bid process," Lenox said. SWSG's fee was $32,271.

A construction contract was executed in February 2005 for $151,328. These two elements, design and construction, brought the total cost to $183,599.

JOINING IN the ribbon-cutting ceremony, in addition to the speakers, were Vice Mayor Redella "Dell" Pepper; City Council members Ludwig Gaines and Joyce Woodson; ARHA Board member Carter Flemming; James Lowe, the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation; Michelle Chapman, former chair, ARHA Board of Commissioners; William Cleveland, former vice mayor; Franklyn Malone, former center director; Steve Martin, director, ARHA HOPE VI; Lenox and other ARHA staff members.

Providing entertainment for the ceremony were ARHA's Learning Center Dance Team. All those attending were able to tour the new facilities following the ceremony.