Dispute over Tolentine Community Center’s future continues

Back in 2013 we had first told you about the Tolentine Community Center looking for feedback from neighbors on what they’d like to see at the center in the future to engage more of the community.

Tolentine Rec Center (2)
Photo of the center from 2013.

The center’s 25-year lease is now ending as of July 12 and the community is split on what the future holds for this 35,000 sq. ft. space at 11th and Mifflin.

Tolentine is mostly known as a voting center or bingo spot, along with offering some other community programming. But some neighbors don’t think that’s enough and would like to see more in the center’s future.

Once you get past the bushes...

Back in April, about 50 people gathered in the Neumann-Goretti High School cafeteria to discuss the future of the community center.

More from The Inquirer:

The residents derided a lack of access to the building. Some complained of gratuitous fees. Others wondered how the nonprofit’s board was chosen, and how much money the city supplied.

About 60 kids use Tolentine’s after-school program, which costs $65 a week, Mattei said. The 10-week summer camp runs $1,350, and about 80 children are enrolled.

One man, who refused to give his name or address, spoke in favor of Tolentine’s programming. The rest called for change.

Stephanie DeJesse, 49, wistfully recalled the groundbreaking for Tolentine. A few years ago, she said, she took her son and his friends to play basketball inside. She was turned away, she said. The gym was arranged for the next day’s bingo game.

Some neighbors have commented on the gates always being locked and not allowing for much of the community to access it, while others believe that the center has offered ample programming as-is.

Although the community’s opinions are mostly split by the old and the new, the center’s board is mostly made up of older neighbors. In 2013 two younger neighbors were added to the board, but due to tension from the center’s former executive director, both decided to leave.

With all of the tension between generations and neighbors, what do you see in the Tolentine Community Center’s future?

5 thoughts on “Dispute over Tolentine Community Center’s future continues

  • June 25, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Make it a multi-level parking garage.

  • June 25, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    I have worked right there for 4 years and had no idea it was open to the public, always thought it was a private latchkey.

  • June 26, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Ok Paul, now you’re clearly just trolling us.

  • June 26, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    I don’t think there was much generational tension around this issue. At that meeting in april, most people young/old/new/lifers were consistently critical of the center. Not sure where that angle came from in the inquirer piece.

  • June 30, 2015 at 1:46 am

    For the Inky reporter to depict the Center debate as lifers vs. newbies was reductive, bordering on sensational. I found it particularly offensive when the reporter editorialized: “And, following South Philly manners, some shouting.” As if heated meetings in other parts of the city, region or country don’t involve shouting!

    I suppose such reporting drives people to philly.com since no one actually buys papers anymore.

    I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 13 years. When I moved here none of my long-term neighbors could tell me what went on at the Center, nor if/when it was open. For years I thought the place was defunct until they put up a sign for Bingo (later replaced by one that advertised their day care/camp).

    One neighbor, who has lived here all her life, said “it’s such a shame I have to bring my grandkids up to Columbus or down to Marconi…why can’t they do something with that place [the Center]?”

    There is a petition being circulated asking people to save the center from demolition. It’s not clear to me where demolition rumors started, but most neighborhood residents I know – life-long or new – just want to feel welcomed at the only piece of public park & rec facility within a 4 to 5 blocks radius. The current Center management hasn’t done a good job of that.

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