Renovations to J.W. 'Blind' Boone Community Center complete

Friday, November 20, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The floors are brand new, and the interior and exterior walls have been touched up with a fresh coat of paint, but the improvements don’t stop there.

This spring, the Columbia Housing Authority received Community Development Block Grant funds from Columbia to give the J.W. “Blind” Boone Center a face-lift.

If you go

The Columbia Housing Authority recently finished renovations on the J.W. "Blind" Boone Community Center, and its open house is Friday. Complimentary snacks are included.

When: 4 to 6 p.m. Friday

Where: 301 N. Providence Road

Columbia Housing Authority CEO Phil Steinhaus said the center needed repair. Although the housing authority performed regular, routine maintenance, a sizable upkeep project had not been performed in years.

With a total of $104,000 from the block grant, the housing authority matched the endowment with $300,000 from a capital fund and shouldered a multitude of projects to repair damages caused by typical wear and tear on the heavily trafficked center.

The project started in March, with a majority of the renovations completed at the beginning of October. Steinhaus said final touches such as signage and a rain garden have been delayed, but nevertheless today marks the grand showcasing of the newly remodeled community center. The open house will go from 4 to 6 p.m.

One of the first projects included lowering the ceilings, adding ceiling fans and installing sound-absorbing tile in both the multipurpose and activity rooms to improve acoustics.

Steinhaus said both rooms produce booming echoes, and Moving Ahead program coordinator Christine Martinez added that the additional sound absorption has helped her children, who use the center to concentrate on their studies.

New audio and visual electronics were also added to both rooms, including a projector and sound equipment in the multipurpose room and a flat-screen television in the activity room. Martinez said Moving Ahead students have already used the new technology several times.

The housing authority also renovated restrooms and installed new tile.

The tiles in the bathroom were beyond cleaning, Martinez said. “The floors and walls look so much cleaner than before. How can you ask a kid to be respectful of a place that already looks dirty?”

Floors and walls aside, many of the projects were geared to giving the center more of a community feel and easier access.

Many housing authority employees, including Family Self-Sufficiency Center staff, relocated to the center after the renovations to give families in public housing a relaxed environment when discussing their future plans and goals.

“Before they were in the administration office, and the only place they could meet was one of the two conference rooms," Steinhaus said. "But oftentimes, the administration office is more of a business than a community center.”

The increased number of staff at the center also means that the two computer labs will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, giving public housing tenants more opportunities to access computer..

And to make building access easier, the housing authority added a circle drive on Park Avenue, with a sidewalk leading to the building entrance.

Additional safety measures were taken as well, including the installation of additional outdoor lighting that surrounds the building and security cameras to monitor the center both inside and outside 24 hours a day.

“We have a lot of kids, and a lot of different rooms," Steinhaus said. "We are trying to be as open and accessible as possible; therefore, we need an little more security.”

He added that, from time to time, misconduct occurs outside the building. He cited a fight in the parking lot as the most recent occurrence, and he said the camera would help monitor such activity.


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