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New Community Center Set To Open

The Southgate Neighborhood Community Center will open its doors on July 10.

Nearly a decade after the Reston Association shuttered an aging community room and swimming pool in the Southgate neighborhood, Fairfax County is poised to unveil its $4.6 million replacement — the Southgate Neighborhood Community Center.

The 7,737-square-foot facility, located at 12125 Pinecrest Road, will open its doors on July 10, capping off three years of construction.

"The center's going to become a critical part of the community," said Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill). "The neighborhood will come to see it as an opportunity to get involved and to take part in the programs. It may be novel and new now, but will soon become a staple of the community."

When Hudgins and other Fairfax County and Reston dignitaries mark the Southgate center's opening on Saturday, they will be ending nine years without a safe and convenient place for Southgate residents to gather.

"The Southgate center will give the community a place to go and gather and talk and have events," said Bertha Hoskins, who sits on the Southgate Community Center Advisory Council. "It'll draw the community together."

The Southgate area, located of Glade Road, has long struggled with poverty, crime and a splintered mix of ethnic groups. The new center, proponents hope, will be a step toward turning things around in Southgate by uniting the neighborhood.

"It'll draw people in and cement together a community," Hoskins said.

THE SOUTHGATE center features a gymnasium, teen center, computer lab, multi-purpose rooms and a teaching kitchen.

Starting next week, the center will kick off its regular programming with RECQuest, a drop-in program for elementary school children with working parents.

"A lot of parents in the summer just don't have a place for their children to go," said Patricia McClenic, spokeswoman of Fairfax County's Department of Community and Recreation Services. "RECQuest will keep their children involved while they're at work."

Within a matter of weeks, the Southgate center is expected to start offering a range of cultural, recreational and educational programming for children, teenagers, adults and senior citizens.

"This is for everyone — young people, as well as adults," said Roosevelt Calbert, who serves on the Southgate Community Center Advisory Committee. "We want to include the entire family. The goal is to give everyone a chance to get to know each other and to get involved with the positive aspects of living in a community like Reston."

A therapeutic recreation specialist will be on hand to teach proper exercise to aging Reston residents. An official with Virginia Cooperative Extension will teach seniors about healthy cooking. Organized Bingo and board games are also likely to be organized for senior citizens.

Computer classes will aim to teach marketable technology skills to teenagers and seniors.

Culinary arts classes will be taught in Southgate center's kitchen, potentially focusing on ethnic cooking, healthy eating and vegetarian cooking.

For teenagers, the Southgate center will feature organized sports, such as tennis and basketball.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Reston Youth Club basketball held games at the Southgate basketball courts. The surrounding neighborhood, according to a five-month survey conducted earlier this year, has been clamoring for organized basketball's return.

"The center's going to give parents a sense of safety that their children are involved in something and not just hanging out," McClenic said.

SATURDAY'S GRAND opening ceremony will be the culmination of a nine-year process to re-open the community center in Southgate.

The Reston Association closed the original 23-year-old multi-purpose room and swimming pool in 1997 after an RA survey found the facilities were rarely used.

The cost was deemed too high for RA to renovate the original 1,200-square-foot community room and pool.

But Reston Association's former executive vice president, Gerald Volloy, approached Fairfax County with a proposition: RA would hand over the 2.4-acre property, while the county would build a new community center that it would run.

Because the property is owned by Reston homeowners, RA needed to obtain the community's permission via referendum before the deal could go through. In 2002, RA members voted overwhelming — by a margin of 96 percent — to lease the land to Fairfax County for 99 years.