By Corinne Murdock |
On Thursday, Phoenix had the grand opening of a $12 million community center, days after a court ruled that it had refused to clean up the massive homeless encampment downtown.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego announced the 34,000-square-foot community center, noting that she’d been working on the project since her election in 2019. That was the same year that the homeless crisis began.
Funding for the community center came from the Parks and Preserve Initiative, which sets aside one cent of sales tax for every $10 spent to improve and renovate parks, as well as to expand and improve the city’s desert preserve system.
As AZ Free News reported in its investigative series on The Zone, the homeless crisis has a devastating impact on Phoenix’s ground and waterways.
The community center is located about eight miles south of the homeless encampment (The Zone). It has an elevated track, basketball court, kitchen, fitness center, gaming room, outdoor movie theater, art installation, and a sensory room.
The city opened the community center a day before the holiday celebrating its namesake: the civil rights and union activist Cesar Chavez.
During the grand opening ceremony, Gallego called the community center a “showpiece” that represents city values. Gallego disclosed that the city had to jump through a lot of hoops to find the funding to finish the project.
“We put inclusivity at the forefront. This building really shows our values,” said Gallego. “[W]e really had to work as a team to find out how to fund this project. Most city projects have fairly simple funding resources, but this one was quite complex with bond funding, impact fees, [and] a little bit of federal funding.”
The city held its groundbreaking for the community center in September 2020. That was eight months after the residents and business owners within The Zone, the massive homeless encampment downtown, presented a plan to mitigate the burgeoning homeless with outdoor shelter or camping spaces on city land. According to the Maricopa County Superior Court ruling, the city generally ignored their pleas and their plans.
The Maricopa County Superior Court ruled on Monday that the city of Phoenix was at fault for the homeless crisis, which began around 2019 after the city essentially stopped enforcing laws on the homeless.
The city initially projected the community center to be completed last spring or early summer. It’s the city’s first community center established since 2007.