CENTRAL FALLS, RI — In 2011, the then-bankrupt city of Central Falls closed the Ralph J. Holden Community Center, and this impoverished town of 22,500 hasn’t had a community center since.

But on Tuesday, Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera joined members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation to announce plans to open a community center — named El Centro de Central Falls — on a former property of the Church on Broad Street, near City Hall.

“Today is an important day as we take another step forward in executing the vision of El Centro,” Rivera said inside 702 Broad St., the former Ministerio Guerreros De Cristo Church. . “This one-stop resource will connect all Central Falls residents to essential counseling, mental health, wellness, fitness and support services.

Rivera said she wants Central Falls to open a traditional community because it’s the only town in the state without such a location. But she noted that the densely populated 1.2 square mile city was Rhode Island’s hotspot during the pandemic and one of the hardest hit communities in the country.

So, she said, “It is my responsibility to make sure we have a wellness site to address all of the issues, all of the needs, that have increased in this pandemic – mental health, drug addiction and domestic violence, which was our number one call with the police department at one point.

Central Falls’ El Centro will serve as a hub for our community, Rivera said.

“But this center will be much more than a traditional community or a center for the elderly,” she said. “Here, our residents will get the help and support they need and enjoy programs designed to meet the unique needs of Central Falls residents. »

The city completed the purchase of the property on Friday, renovations will begin next week and the center will open sometime next year, officials said.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Rep. David N. Cicilline announced they had jointly secured a $2 million federal appropriation under the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriation Act to build the new community Center.

They also helped provide $705,000 in federal funding for the American Rescue Plan Act project and another $1 million in federal funding through the Community Development Block Grant program. Central Falls voters approved a $1 million bond to help fund the project, and the city is raising contributions from nonprofits and the private sector, including a $100,000 pledge from Navigating Credit Union.

“For more than a decade, the city has not had a community center,” Reed said during Tuesday’s announcement. “This closure has left an unmet need in the community, and that space has not been easily filled.”

But El Centro will provide the city with a place where everyone from teenagers to seniors can congregate and provide services to the city’s residents.

“This community center is not just a building,” Reed said. “It is a safe space where the physical and mental well-being of Central Falls residents can be aided, assisted and enhanced.”

Cicilline said he knew there was a lot of disappointment when the Ralph Holden Community Center closed in 2011.

“What’s really exciting about this,” he said, “is that this center is going to provide extraordinary services to the residents of Central Falls in a comprehensive way and make a real difference in the lives of residents and families. of Central Falls.

Family Service of Rhode Island CEO Margaret Holland McDuff attended the press conference, saying the agency looks forward to partnering with Central Falls to help address “all social determinants of health and well-being.” -to be in one place”.

“The pandemic has accentuated the fact that access to basic life needs is not always equal,” she said. “Communities like Central Falls really need an innovative approach, and El Centro is that approach. Bringing together wellness services and opportunities that address factors such as housing, food insecurity, financial stress, and emotional health under one roof will allow for equal access to a streamlined experience for residents. »

The project will include flexible space for a senior center, fitness facilities, a large community hall with a kitchen, a teen room, meeting rooms and classrooms. Lerner Ladds + Bartels was selected as the architect for the project.


Edward Fitzpatrick can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.