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Negotiations Continue In Bid To Save Historic Community Center


Efforts continue to save an historic community center in Springfield, Massachusetts from foreclosure.  The Dunbar Community Center has been an oasis for inner-city youth for decades, but now faces an uncertain future.

The board of directors of the Dunbar Community Center is continuing to negotiate with its mortgage-holder to avoid foreclosure and the possible closing of the center in Springfield’s Mason Square neighborhood.   A statement from the board this week said no foreclosure sale had been scheduled.

Dunbar Inc. owes about $1.6 million to Republic Financial Inc. of Colorado, which holds the mortgage on the community center building. News came from community leaders in July that Dunbar had been unable for some time to make payments and foreclosure might be imminent.

In the statement, the Dunbar board appealed for continued community support and said it was grateful for the encouragement, suggestions, and guidance it had received from community leaders as well as Congressman Richard Neal and Governor Deval Patrick.

Patrick visited the Dunbar Community Center in February 2012 to salute the work the center does in helping curb youth violence.

Springfield City Councilor Tom Ashe, who chairs the public safety committee, said the Dunbar Community Center is a critical asset to the Mason Square neighborhood and the city as a whole. He said if it closed, thousands of children and their families would have nowhere to go for recreation and after-school programs.

" People have hearts and they are going to see if something were to negatively impact this building what it would do to families and kids in this area. So, we are cautiously optimistic something good will happen in the end."

The YMCA of Greater Springfield took over day-to-day operations of the Dunbar in 2011 after financial problems at the center began to mount.  The Y does not own the building.

Y CEO Kirk Smith said membership at Dunbar has grown to 3,500 since the Y took over. He said the members  that include teens, young adults and senior citizens won’t be left in the lurch if the Dunbar center closes.

"Our commitment remains above and beyond anything to serve this community."

Smith said many of the programs the Y offers at Dunbar could be moved to schools and church basements in the neighborhood, but he said the family element will be lost if the community center’s programs are dispersed.

The Dunbar Community Center is marking its 100th anniversary this year.  Dunbar is where NBA stars Travis Best and Vinny Del Negro learned to play basketball.  It was also once home to a famous dance studio and theater group.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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