Kids of all ages on Charleston’s East End will soon have a new place to play. City leaders broke ground Monday on the East End Community Park. The front faces Dixie Street, the rear backs up to Laidley Field.

Charleston City Councilman Marc Weintraub has been involved with the project since the very beginning and he says plans have been in the works for nearly a decade. The community gathered at Roosevelt Community Center just down the street back in 2003.

“People looked at this specific site and said that’s got to be a park,” explained Weintraub.

At the time, three blighted houses sat on the front of the Dixie Street site. Weintraub says it was a haven for a bad element.

“It was a place that had drug activity going on. It was a place that had fire code violations. It was a place that the police visited on a regular basis,” according to Weintraub.

Behind those houses were several empty acres where people would gather out of the sight of police. Neighbors wanted to change the image of the area and they knew the only way to do that was re-purpose the property.

“The idea for this park, the plans for this park came from the neighbors in the surrounding area who really believed having a nice, gem of a park will improve their lives, increase their property values and generally redefine the East End,” Weintraub said.

Phase 1 of the project will cost $1.2-million. That includes a covered bandstand, seating, and a field area for things like baseball and soccer games.

The city plan to begin raising money for phase three this summer. That will include a sprinkler play area and a skateboard park.

Weintraub says the goal is to give residents of the East End a nice place gather, watch their kids play and enjoy the outdoors in a safe area.

Weintraub says the bad element moving back in is not a concern.

“I’m not worried about the bad element. There’s going to be fencing. This park is going to be closed every night by the park’s department,” Weintraub said. “I’m not worried about that at all.”

Phase 1 of the park should be complete in about three months.

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