Clearwater MLK Center History Series — Part Two
Catch up on the History of the Clearwater Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Center by reading Part One of the series.
During the ’90s, the Clearwater Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Center housed a successful program sponsored by the African American Leadership Council under the direction of Bilal Habeeb Ullah.
Hundreds of youths went through the program, which catered to young community members in middle school and high school. The program helped pave the way for many to find employment or continue to college.
The Upper Pinellas Ministerial Alliance also held an office there.
By 2010, however, the City of Clearwater opened the North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Complex and the North Greenwood Library on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Programs funded by the Juvenile Welfare Board moved to those locations, pulling funding from the MLK Center.
An article in the Tampa Bay Times stated that the city felt it was no longer cost-efficient to keep the center open; it needed hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs for a new roof and air conditioning, and another $100,000 a year for operations. The City of Clearwater planned to demolish the building on Douglas Avenue.
The nearby neighborhood had other plans. Area residents got together and decided the center had become too important to them to just let it go. They felt the “soul” was missing in the large, newly designed North Greenwood Recreation Center — and it lacked the more intimate, familial feeling residents had come to know. There were no pingpong or pool tables; nor did it offer the “elegant yet homey” feel that the MLK Center easily created for locals’ wedding receptions, birthday parties, and formal dances.
Furthermore, the new complex required a minimal fee to join and use the facilities — still too much for a financially strapped community accustomed to the MLK Center’s free admission policy.
Much to the dismay of the community, the Clearwater MLK Center closed its doors … but not forever.
Come Back Next Week for Part Three
Visit next week to read Part Three of the Clearwater MLK Center History Series that highlights the chronicles of the Clearwater Martin Luther King Jr. Neighborhood Center.