For more than a year construction crews in Decatur have been working on a new police headquarters, recreation center and a place to house the school board, and according to Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon, they’re nearly complete.
Saxon, who manages all of Decatur’s construction and capital improvement projects, said the approximately $38 million project will be completed this summer; the police and municipal court headquarters in August and recreation center in early September.
Additionally, the facility housing City Schools of Decatur staff is expected to be finished within the next few weeks. The swimming pool adjacent to the recreation area is complete, and the city held its first swim meet there June 3.
“This area was the center of African-American life in Decatur,” Saxon said.
The area, known as Beacon Hill, was home to several schools, a library and the Ebster Recreation Center in the 1960s. Saxon said after schools were integrated the city took ownership of the school buildings and recreation center.
“We took it over and operated it as a recreation center; we put our police department in there; had a community theater and used the classrooms for artists,” Saxon said.
Saxon said the area had a history of flooding and its stormwater drainage wasn’t adequate. So, the city decided to build a stormwater retention facility in a soccer field located behind the center. Once the stormwater facility is complete it will be covered with dirt and new sod will be laid for a new soccer field.
Currently, Saxon said the board of education and its staff are occupying their new facility although construction is not yet complete. Westchester Elementary, where the school board was previously located, will be reopened as a school this year.
Decatur spokeswoman Casie Yoder said throughout the facilities, there will be exhibits detailing the history of the area and the buildings.
An outdoor lawn and plaza area central to the new facilities will be available for performances, movies and other community events.
Yoder said much of the existing structure of the school board’s building was maintained as well as the façade for the Ebster Recreation Center.
“Much of the existing gym, library and school building will become a ‘living museum’ honoring alumni of the Herring Street, Trinity High and Beacon schools that were located there in the 1960s,” Yoder said.
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