ONE Change to take over Saint John community centre

Saint John common council has given the green light to a deal that will see the ONE Change group take over a completely modernized community center in the city's old north end.

Grassroots group hopes to strengthen services at north end centre, improve neighbourhood

The ONE Change group in Saint John is on the verge of taking over control of the former North End Community Centre in the hopes of improving services and empowering the neighbourhood.

Saint John council voted Monday night to accept the proposal by the grassroots group, making it the latest in a string of recreation centres being handed back to the community.

"This is totally in the right direction," Coun. David Merrithew said of the group's plan to take over the centre, which offers recreation, health, and anti-crime programs.

Merrithew said he has nothing but praise for the work ONE (Old North End) Change has done in the vulnerable neighbourhood.

"It just invigorates our community and its inhabitants," he said. "I support it fully."

Members of the group say taking over operations of the centre, which is being renamed the C.E. Nicolle Community Centre, is a big step in their effort to improve the area.

President Scott Crawford says the new arrangement with council turns a page for the old north end.

"We're able to really start to key in on some of those areas the community has said is important to them," Crawford said.

"The community will be the ones saying, 'This is what's important to us, and these are the programs that are going to make a difference.'"

North end resident Gerry Leavitt is excited about the opportunity.

"We're going to prove that we can do it," said Leavitt, who watched council approve the deal. "There probably will be a lot of activity, and a lot of things for the youth to grow up in and learn."

The building is in the middle of a $2-million makeover and expansion. ONE Change is expected to assume operations on June 1.