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Bartlett center finds permanent home

The original was burned during 1996's violence. Thanks to donations, the center will now have more space for its programs, which will also help Harbordale.

In and out of temporary homes since it was destroyed during the 1996 street violence, the Bartlett Park Resource Center at last will have permanent headquarters.

Scheduled to be in operation by Oct. 1, the new center also will benefit the Harbordale neighborhood. It is in the 600 block of 22nd Avenue S _ across from Bartlett park but within Harbordale boundaries.

Several neighborhoods have resource centers that typically provide space for community programs, meetings and police stopovers.

Bartlett Park's has been particularly important to a neighborhood trying to rehabilitate old and dilapidated housing and help many of its low-income, mostly black residents improve their lives.

It has been a clearinghouse for information about jobs. It is always a place to call when residents have complaints or questions about something going on in the neighborhood. And it's a haven for youngsters who come in to learn about computers or, perhaps, simply get a sandwich and a glass of water.

Its new home will mean a space increase from about 1,100 to 1,680 square feet. There will be room for eight computers instead of the current four. "We'll be able to jumpstart some more programs" and improve existing ones, said Charles Payne, president of the Bartlett Park Neighborhood Association.

For Harbordale, busy with its own war on blighted areas, the center will occupy a vacant lot that previously was occupied by a boarded house. In addition, Harbordale also has identified the area next to the center as a priority spot for law enforcement. It is believed the center's presence will help in that regard.

"I'm real excited about it," said Harbordale president Theresa McEachern. "I think it's going to work real well as a collaboration between two neighborhoods."

Bartlett Park's boundaries are 11th and 22nd avenues S; Harbordale's are 22nd and 30th avenues S. The neighborhoods share Fourth Street and Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street as east and west boundaries.

They also share issues in common: traffic, crime and economic redevelopment, for example.

Finding a permanent home for the center has not come quickly or easily.

After a fire during the Oct. 24, 1996, disturbance gutted the center's storefront location at 1453 Fourth St. S, the staff moved into a narrow trailer on a vacant lot at Fourth Street and Newton Avenue.

There were plans to make that spot permanent, and in 1997, Columbia Edward White Hospital donated a 28- by 60-foot prefabricated building for the site.

But the plan for permanency fell through The prefab went into storage. While the center continued to operate out of the trailer, a search for another site commenced.

Last summer, the center moved into another temporary home, a city-owned house at 757 18th Ave. S, where it will stay a few more weeks until details at the new site are complete. The prefab building the hospital donated will be moved onto the site.

Work to be completed includes landscaping, handicap ramp installation and construction of a parking lot, sidewalk and building. The site preparation will be paid for with up to $10,000 of Harbordale's neighborhood plan grant, $9,700 from Bartlett Park's plan grant and $5,000 from the Bartlett Park Neighborhood Association. The former Barnett Bank donated the $5,000 to Bartlett Park to re-establish the center after the disturbance.

Barnett donated the property to the city in 1989. Two structures were on it, which were demolished because they were considered blighted.

The city actually is leasing the property for $1 a year for 10 years to the Phoenix Enterprise Group, a nonprofit housing development agency in the Bartlett Park neighborhood.

"Some day," Payne said, "we'd like to be blessed enough to build our own building."

The center will continue to operate 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information, call 550-9710.