PALM HARBOR — Erica Lynford started a new job as director of Palm Harbor Parks and Recreation almost a year ago, and she soon figured out that people didn't know about the building on 16th Street where many of the department's programs are housed.
It's an identity crisis she hopes to solve with a new name and a rebranding campaign.
The building officially called the Palm Harbor Community Activity Center is at the end of 16th Street, next door to the Greater Palm Harbor branch of the YMCA. Some people get the two buildings confused.
And some locals still call the community center the Senior Activity Center, but it hasn't had that name in years.
So in August the community center will get a new name: the Centre. The building also is getting a makeover inside and out.
Recreational activities will continue as usual. Seniors will play pinochle. Quilters will chit-chat while working on their craft. Youngsters will cartwheel their way through gymnastic classes.
But officials hope the new name and renovations will attract new attention to the facility off Nebraska Avenue.
"It already is operating as the community's gathering place,'' Lynford stressed. "We just want to increase the number of people who use it, and to make this happen, we believe there was a need for rebranding.''
The inside of the building has been painted and crews have relocated Sophia's Attic, a thrift store set up to benefit recreation programs, from the main entrance to a classroom down the main hall.
The move made it possible for workers to create a larger, user-friendly lobby reception area. Now, when people walk through the door, they will see a reception desk.
"For so long, visitors would come in and they would have to go around the corner to find someone to help them," Lynford said. "Both for safety and customer service, we wanted to put that (function) up front.''
Workers are also sprucing up the outside of the building.
"In order to bring in dollars to support all of our programming, we want to make money from this building,'' she said. "We want it to be more of a destination location, and this means making it more visually appealing.''
Trish Harrison, the center's special events coordinator, is excited about the changes.
"We'd like it to be a place where a future bride will visit and consider it a place for a reception,'' she said. "That means we needed a makeover. We need more curb appeal. ... All in all, this place has such great potential as a rental facility.''
Built in 1999, the facility was originally known as the Palm Harbor Senior Center and later as the Senior Activity Center. However, it struggled to survive, and residents of the unincorporated Palm Harbor area rejected the idea of a special tax to support the facility.
So in 2004, the tax-supported Palm Harbor recreation department merged with the senior center. Senior programming still was offered but so were activities for all ages. The name of the facility also was changed to the current Palm Harbor Community Activity Center, "but nothing formal was ever held when the name change happened,'' Lynford said.
She will make sure the community knows when the name changes to the Centre. She is already scheduling several grand re-opening events in August and September.
Piper Castillo can be reached at (727) 445-4163 or [email protected]