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A Small West Side Neighborhood Is Finally Getting A Long-Awaited Rec Center

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati

The Villages at Roll Hill, a small Cincinnati neighborhood on the West Side, will finally get a long-awaited recreation center. City administration Monday recommended council use $2.25 million in federal stimulus to fill the funding gap.

The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati will build and operate the recreation center. CEO Bill Bresser says the neighborhood, just north of East Westwood, is home to about 480 kids between ages 5 and 18.

"Ninety-seven percent of those kids are in households making between zero and $25,000 per year, so certainly low income," Bresser said. "There are no resources currently for youth within walking distance of where they live."

In 2018, council allocated $750,000 for the project. The Boys and Girls Club has been unable to raise the rest of the $3 million needed for construction.

A rec center has been a primary goal for community advocates this year, after a shooting in nearby East Westwood involving two young children put a spotlight on the area.

Two current council members have been pushing to find the money needed to make the rec center a reality, led by Interim Member Liz Keating.

"We want to be a city of growth and acceptance and safety and opportunity, and [that's] the reality in some neighborhoods, but it is not in Roll Hill," Keating said Monday. "It is constantly overlooked. And these are kids in our city that need this kind of support."

Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney worked with Keating to find the money.

"[Keating] came into my office today literally with tears in her eyes — which I have now — and said, we found the money," Kearney said. "And it was just unbelievable, because we've been talking about this for so long."

The $2.25 million comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, which council fully allocated earlier this year. City Budget Director Andrew Dudas says the hotel tax hasn't been as low as expected, leaving $2.5 million available for other uses.

Dudas recommends using the leftover $250,000 for Council Member Greg Landsman's proposed Safe and Clean Fund. The other $250,000 in the Safe and Clean Fund will come from carryover from the fiscal year 2021 budget.

Bresser says they've already identified the property that will house the rec center and the current owners will donate it. The rec center could be open as soon as the end of next year. (WVXU is currently trying to confirm the exact location and will update this story if/when we hear back.)

The Boys and Girls club will fund the yearly operations, which will cost about $400,000 annually. The rec center will serve about 130 kids a day, and about 300-400 kids a year.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.