MUSKOGEE, Okla. - The Muskogee Martin Luther King Center dates back to the World War II era, and over the past decades, it has served people of all ages throughout the community. But as the years have passed, history has taken a toll on the building.
Last week, the Muskogee City Council made the decision to move forward in creating a new space for the community center.
“This building was actually built back in the World War II days. It was the army barracks for the African-American soldiers. After that portion of history, it became the African-American library for the area,” said Derrick Reed, program director at Muskogee Martin Luther King Center.
After integration, the building became what it is today – the Muskogee Martin Luther King Center.
“This location has become the hub for the youth here in the city of Muskogee,” Reed said.
Reed said about 60 students participate in the afterschool program, and more than 100 come to the center each day for the summer feeding program and about 350 people come out every Friday and Saturday for Night Hoops. The building also serves as a meeting place for a number of local organizations.
Originally, city officials had set aside about $45,000 to fix the center, but Reed said repairs required a much larger investment.
“Once we got the structural engineers to come and check into the building, the costs was going to exceed that by a couple of hundred thousand dollars.”
The council made the decision to use the money allocated for building repairs to purchase the land, and about $16,000 of that money secured an architect to begin the preliminary work on the future Martin Luther King Center.
Reed said the new space will be about 10,000 square feet and will be located on a 32,000 square foot property just north of the current facility.
“In addition to the needs that we have for the afterschool program, we are also going to have spaces for people to rent for banquets and so forth,” he said.
Ambler Architects was approved as the architect for the new construction and is set to hold town hall meetings to get input from residents on what they want to see in the future site.
“We are going to get feedback from several different groups, the business owners that are in the adjacent area and with that we will decide what types of rooms to put in the new Martin Luther King Center.
City Manager Greg Buckley said it is still too early to say how much the future facility will cost, but anticipates funds will come from the city’s capital investment program as well as grant funding.
“Until we determine the dynamics of the building, it’s hard to determine what the costs are going to be.”
Officials hope to have more detail in the coming months, once preliminary architectural designs are complete.
“Plans are moving forward,” Reed said
And Reed believes that means a lot to the community that the Martin Luther King Center serves daily.
“The community is upbeat and excited about the possibility, well the reality at this point, of a new Martin Luther King Center. It's well overdue.
“It just exciting to think of what the future will hold as far as the building. The sky is the limit.”
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