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South Richmond gets youth center, but will it keep kids safe?

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) –Soon, this neighborhood will have even more resources for kids in hopes of keeping them off the streets.

This week, City Council approved a project that would turn a local property into a public park with a community center for a gym, indoor track and computer labs. The building is owned by the ROC – a local megachurch.

For more than decade, it’s been a challenge to get a center built in the 9th district because of lack of funding.

The Broadrock Sportsplex was supposed to be the original spot for that $3.6 million  community center.  While that may be a suitable site, city leaders say it wouldn’t be cost-effective to build one.

Instead, they say it would be cheaper to renovate the ROC property which is estimated to cost $1.7 million.

According to Richmond Police, the number of juveniles arrested in the 9th district dropped by 50 percent between 2008 and 2012.

“That’s 50 percent down from what it was before,” said Charles Willis, Executive Director of an organization known as Citizens Against Crime.  “However, we want it down 50 percent from where it is now.”

Willis says it will also take the help of police, school leaders and parents.

Parents, like Thomas Brown, say it starts in the home.

“If you have some kind of guidance, structure….somebody you know. Do something that they enjoy, something that they’re interested in,” said Brown. “I think that will go a long way towards keeping them out of trouble.”

Michelle Mosby, who represents the 9th district, says she’s been pushing for the community center. Mosby says she’s considering a proposal to name a portion of the building after Marty Cobb, the 8-year-old was recently murdered while defending his 12-year-old sister.

Right now, there’s no timeline as to when the city will purchase the ROC property on Warwick Road, or how much it will cost to renovate it.