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Northwest Activities Center

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5; O kv J ik ▼ ly have enough lelt in tliem to $ provide decent living circumstances for their black inheritors; remarkable buildings and serviceable institutions somctimes become, through the medium of abandonment, the almost-exclusive property of black citizens, who then have the opportunity to try to raise enough money to keep them going in a community which suffers trom massive (33 to 60%) unemployment, forced economie underdevelopment, and a lack of access to large capital with which to créate and build its own self-styled institutions. One of the few such treats black Detroiters have been granted lately-aside from Belle Isle, the city's most glorious possession- is a large, well-kept, beautifully-equipped recreation center located n the heart of the (now predominantly black) Northwest side. Built as recently as 1 959, the former jewish Community Center- now the Northwest Activities Center- was left behind when the local )ewish community made its exodus to the greener (and almost allwhite) pastures of suburban Oakland County. While a new Jewish Community Center goes up on Maple Road in West Bloomfield, safe from the mmediate encroachment of blacks, the Northwest Activities Center is being ful ly retailored to suit the needs of its new constituency, and it's already beginning to emerge as the f nest facility of ts kind in the city to which black people have full and complete access. The transformation of the 150,000-square foot Center into a city-owned recreation complex was made possible by the purchase of the building by the City of Detroit for some $3.5 million last summer, but it was a community arouD- the Committee for Communitv Utiliation of the jewish Community Center (CU]CC)-vChich brought about the City's nvolvement in the project. The CUJCC group was formeel n 1971 to help borhood residents gain access to and make use ot the Center for recreational and educational purposes, and when CUjCC President Herbert Williams heard that the building was up for sale in 1973, he led the organization nto action to secure the necessary funds. Original ly rejected by former mayor Roman Gribbs, the CUJCC received a warm reception from the Coleman Young administration, which agreed with Williams' belief that the Center could be a particularly valuable resource for the people of the Northwest side and the city as a whole. After a great deal ot preparation and study, the City authoried the purchase of the vish Communitv Center and allocated some $300,000 for C tion and mitial operating costs, coming up n the process with a an to make the Center work as a selfning facility supported by the peouse t. ■a s that the gymnasium and spacluding the Olympic-sied swimming venue through paid memberships in the Cosmopolitan Club, "a complete facility for healthful enjoyment," which n turn will enable the Center to offer open access, on a Mmited but generous basis, to community persons who can't afford memberships. With the basic operating costs of the facility covered by health club memberships, the Center can then afford to offer a wide range of classes, programs, theatre and concert presentations, and other services on a cost basis, and the community can maximize ts use of the Center on many levéis without having to seek non-existent funds from the city's aching treasury. To effect this resourceful plan the City set up a non-proft Corporation, Northwest Community Programs Inc., with a Boatd of Directors comprising six City department heads and three CUJCC representatives, including Herbert Williams. Northwest Community Programs leases the facility from the City of Detroit for $1 a year, and after the initial City grants ($200,000 for re-equipping the facility, $106, 000 for seed money to begin operations) the non-profit group is expected to genérate operating revenues from its own operations. Harvey Brookins'a Columbia University gradúate who operated four successful recreational centers in the "planned community" of Columbia, Maryland, was brought in as Executive Director of the Center, and he quickly bied a staff ncluding Bill Schuit (Cosrr.opolitan Club Director), Eugene Johnson (Theatre Manager), Alice Graves (Business Manager), John Perryman (Building & Grounds Supervisor), and Walter jones (Restaurant Manager). The Frank Seymour agency was contract ed to handle promotions and public relations, and an entire program of "leisure time classes in continuing education was quickly organ'ued by the Center's educational component. An ambitious cultural program was mmediately put nto effect, featurng concerts by the orchestras of Duke hngion and Lount Basie and theatre tions by the Peddy Players (Great White Hope), La Vice Theatre Company, The Group Theatre (Lorraine Hansberry 's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window), the Paul Robeson Players (The Idea of Ancestry), and the Writhm Dance Company. An open house for the entire Center was organized for March T4th, attracting more than 3000 people to tour the facility, and a wave of media publicity was launched to get the Center off the ground. By April 1 st everything will be in full sail, and the city will have one more reason to be proud of ts cultural and recreational riches. Membership n the Cosmopolitan Club, which ncludes access to the Center's handball courts, game rooms, swimming pool, sun deck, two gymnasiums, squash and racketball courts, sauna, steam room, dance studio, theatre,500seat auditorium, restaurant, classrooms, and cabaret room, starts at $240.00 yearly for a single adult, $395.00 for an entire family. A "swim and gym" family membership is available for $100.00 ($45.00 for an individual), and therc are a number of flexible combinations which can be arranged to suit particular needs. At present the Club is accepting only lump-sum payments (there is a quarterly payment plan which adds greatly to the total fare), but hopefully an nstallment plan will be offered as soon as a sbablc amount of operating capital is raised from sales of charter memberships. Free community access is also in effect at certain hours of certain days; cali the Center at 224-7590 for specific information. The Northwest Activities Center is located at 18100 Meyers (corner of Curtís); the general telephone nunber is 2247595; and the facilities are sitting there wafting for you to check them out. As Mayor Young said in nis dedicatory addressat the Open House March 14th, "This center is a challenge, a sign that we are not going down. The city must invest n the people where we can 't get others to do t, and wc will progress as long as we have faith in each other." There's been a lot of faith nvested in the Northwest Activities t Center already, and a lot of people in this community stand to reap the re wards for a long time to come.