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Fair Street center's grand opening gives Southside a boost

POSTED: April 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Kiki Hendrix, left, along with Nancy Hilario, center, and Esmeralda Chavez sings along with other members of the Fair Street Elementary School Singing Tigers during Sunday's dedication for the Fair Street Neighborhood Center.

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The Fair Street Neighborhood Center officially opened for business Sunday with a dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting.

Staff members from the center and the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Department, along with dozens of local residents and students and faculty from Fair Street Elementary School, were on hand for the grand opening.

"I’m not the first to say that the Southside needs more recreational services," said Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras. "This building today, when I walked in, gave me so much joy."

James Brooks, a Gainesville resident and member of the Historical Preservation Commission, also spoke at the event.

Brooks grew up on Carlton Street and remembered when the Fair Street Pool used to be the Summer Hill Normal School that his mother attended.

"I want you to know, from the old man in the neighborhood, this is wholesome ground. ... This is the best marriage between a site and a facility," he said.

Although the center just opened, Brenda Martin, manager of the Gainesville Civic Center, said the building has already been reserved for a number of business meetings, birthdays and church and family events.

Brooks said he hopes to rent the facility monthly for Black History Society board meetings. He serves as chairman during the meetings.

In addition to speeches from Figueras and Brooks, the event featured the Fair Street Elementary School Singing Tigers, who sang "A Song of Peace."

A video montage developed by the students at Fair Street Elementary showing images of the past facilities on Fair Street was featured throughout the ceremony.

After the ceremony, a tour was hosted by Joe Biddy, chairman of Gainesville Parks and Recreation.

All of the speakers touched on the great need for more recreational facilities in the area.

"Our council has planted a seed, and we are watering it and seeing that it continues to grow and thrive," Figueras said.



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