Middletown approves $50K grant for design of possible renovated, new community center

Middletown City Council approved a $50,000 grant to assist Community Building Institute is designing a possible expansion or building of the Robert "Sonny" Hill Jr. Community Center on Lafayette Avenue. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
Middletown City Council approved a $50,000 grant to assist Community Building Institute is designing a possible expansion or building of the Robert "Sonny" Hill Jr. Community Center on Lafayette Avenue. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Middletown officials approve legislation for nonprofit with ‘proven’ track-record of properly using funds, city manager says.

The City of Middletown has approved a $50,000 grant to research a possible renovation or building of a community center that would provide “cradle to career” programs, said Karin Maney, executive director of the Community Building Institute that manages the Robert “Sonny” Hill Jr. Community Center.

City council voted unanimously Tuesday night to pass the emergency legislation for the city to provide a planning grant with CARES act funding to CBI to engage design and architecture professionals.

City Manager Jim Palenick said CBI was selected to receive the grant because it’s a nonprofit and has a “proven” track-record of properly using funds.

The money will be spent to draw “a picture of what we want to have happen,” Maney said.

In an earlier work session, Palenick proposed spending $2.1 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds on the community center with $6 million coming from Butler County and $4 million from the Middletown school district.

The city-owned community center was built in 1925 by ARMCO Steel and is located on 15 acres at 800 Lafayette Ave. Since the plans are in the “early stages,” Maney said it’s too soon to say whether the center will be remodeled or rebuilt.

The center will remain on Lafayette because it’s “an entry point into the city and will set off the revitalization” of the Ohio 4 corridors, she said.

Maney said a 25,000-square-foot building could provide services to a wide-range of children and adults.

There would be an early education program for children up to 5 years old and childcare available for working parents; a youth center where teens could “feel safe, learn and get off the streets;” and a workforce development piece and culinary incubator, Maney said.

This is “a critical time” to address some of the ill-affects of the COVID, including job loss, she said.

The city has a long running relationship with CBI to manage the facility and coordinate the programming to keep the center “a vibrant opportunity” for residents to take part in recreational activities, educational opportunities and job training, according to a staff report.

Palenick said the money will allow the management of the center to work with community members and board members from the council or the school board.

City council and Middletown school board members held a joint meeting this month when Superintendent Marlon Styles said by using federal funds the city has “a rare opportunity” to provide a place for children of all ages to learn and have fun in a safe environment.

About the Author