In the 1970s, the city’s parks department built 2,000-square-foot neighborhood centers in five communities near the Beltline. Now the buildings are a bit shabby compared to newer city-run gathering places.
Brentwood residents came to the Raleigh City Council last week to push for an upgrade to their center.
“It’s kind of old now, it’s kind of broken with a lot of stuff that doesn’t work,” said Brentwood Neighborhood Association member Sean Kosofsky. “It’s a symbol in our neighborhood of what can be and what we can do in our neighborhood.”
Like a lot of Raleigh’s early suburban neighborhoods, Brentwood has seen ups and downs since the park and community center were built in 1970. Crime was on the rise for a few years as the city’s growth moved further from downtown. Dams at the neighborhood lakes began to crumble.
Kosofsky says Brentwood is now rebounding .
“We believe there’s a bit of a mini-renaisssance going on inside Brentwood, with lots of younger couples moving in,” he said. “We even did our own community fix-it day.”
And as neighborhood events grow, Brentwood residents want a nicer park space to host them.
Right now, the small brown neighborhood center offers a single 1,000-square-foot meeting room and a tiny kitchen.
Outside of rentals, the building hosts virtually no parks department programming.
Three other spartan buildings of the same era dot other neighborhoods at Kiwanis Park, Eastgate Park and Powell Drive Park.
Only one of the original 70s centers has seen a major upgrade: Southgate Park, which was transformed in 2009 to include multiple classrooms with wireless internet, large windows and new bathrooms.
“The investment has reaped dividends both financial and human, turning this site into an anchor for the community,” recreation superintendent Ken Hisler wrote in a memo.
That renovation cost about $200,000 – money the parks department doesn’t have for the other four centers.
Hisler suggests funding the upgrades in the next parks bond referendum.
“This is a priority if we’re given the opportunity in a future bond,” he said.
Councilman Thomas Crowder agreed that the renovations should be a top goal for Brentwood and the three others.
“I see this is a great opportunity for these centers to be a hub for these communities again,” he said. “We need to do our part to make sure it doesn’t come into disrepair.”