Plan to build community center for largest subdivision in Jefferson Parish moves forward

A planned $1.6 million community center for residents in Jefferson Parish’s largest subdivision is inching closer to fruition, and the parish could begin construction on the project this summer.

Last month, the Jefferson Parish Council voted to seek bids for the construction of Woodmere Community Center based on plans approved by the state’s Office of Facility Planning and Control. The community center is slated to be built at Woodmere Park on Edgewood Street, and the parish hopes to complete the bid process by May, said Jedidiah Jackson, the director of the Jefferson Parish Community Action Program which will operate the facility.

The project’s $1.6 million price tag is being funded entirely by the state and includes both construction and design costs, Jackson said. The 3,400 square-foot building, which also will have nearly 1,400 square-feet of outdoor space, is projected to be a hub for community events, meetings and classes, he said.

Parish Councilman Mark Spears, whose district includes Woodmere, called the building a dream too long deferred for the Harvey community’s residents, particularly since Woodmere is not only Jefferson Parish’s largest subdivision, but the largest in Louisiana.

“I believe that it just makes sense,” Spears said. “It is something that’s overdue.”

Parish officials have been discussing the community center since at least 2006 and possibly since the 1990s. However it’s taken years for the project to gain all the state funding it needed because it wasn’t deemed a priority. In that time, groups like the Woodmere Civic Association have met at local businesses and other venues because there wasn’t a convenient place in the area. Residents will often travel to the Marrero Community Center near Ames Boulevard to have events now, he said.

Spears, who grew up in Woodmere, said he knows firsthand exactly how many residents would like to have community events and other gatherings in Woodmere but don’t have the space for it. Although the community has its own playground, that facility can’t handle every sort of event. Spears said he’s heard from residents who are looking for a spot to hold funeral repasts, baby showers and family reunions, and the community center could fill that void.

“The need is there for community events,” said Spears, who added that the community center would have been the perfect venue for an upcoming Easter egg hunt he has planned at Woodmere Park.

Jackson said the community center could be used to hold health fairs, training events and self-sufficiency classes as well. It also would be rented out for private social gatherings, he said. The proposed design of the building differs from some of the parish’s other community centers because normally those centers have more offices and classrooms than what is planned for the Woodmere facility.

The center will be dominated by a 1,000-square-foot assembly hall, along with a 375-square-foot conference room. There will be one office, a covered porch, a kitchen and a lobby/reception area.

Jackson noted that Woodmere has more income diversity than some of the other communities served by the parish’s community centers, and one of the keys will be creating activities that meet all those needs.

“It’s not going to be an everyday, people coming in and coming out all the time type of center,” Jackson said. “But we know that it’s not going to be enough to just be a place to have events.

Fred Nevins, the president of the Woodmere Civic Association, said that residents are excited about the convenience of the new center, even if they have some questions about the logistics of using the facility. Nevins noted that Woodmere Park already has a parking crunch, and while the new center would include its own parking lot, he wonders if it will be able to handle really large events.

Jackson said that after the project is advertised, construction is expected to begin by late summer or early fall. It should take about nine months for the building to be completed, he said.