The grand opening of a new Community Learning Center completes a redevelopment project that transformed a blighted, high-crime neighborhood into a safe and thriving community.
Rialto , CA –At the heart of the restored sense of community pride and optimism permeating the renamed Citrus Grove of Rialto stands a new neighborhood centerpiece — a Community Learning Center that will house a first-of-its-kind preschool, afterschool tutoring and other educational and social support programs for local families and their children.
Citrus Grove residents joined with state lawmakers, the Rialto City Council and officials from the non-profit National Community Renaissance (National CORE) on Thursday (Oct. 23) to celebrate the Community Learning Center ‘s grand opening with music, food and activities. During the celebration, parents and children c reated a paper “Chain of Hope” on which they wrote dreams for the future as it stretched across the new facility.
The opening of the Community Learning Center marks the latest step in the journey to transform the neighborhood, a change borne from a $37 million redevelopment and reconstruction project by National CORE and the City of Rialto that brought safe affordable housing to the area once known for high crime and blight.
“With the physical rehabilitation of the neighborhood complete, we’re now focused on providing for the social and educational needs of the community. Our residents are seeing our programs taking shape and they’re getting excited about their community and the available opportunities,” said George Searcy, Executive Director of Hope Through Housing, a nonprofit social service organization created by National CORE.
Hope Through Housing will provide a wide array of services at the 6,000-square-foot Community Learning Center, including a county Head Start program, afterschool tutoring, day care, youth mentoring, computer education, adult education, and health screening fairs.
Hope Through Housing is already working with students from neighboring Eisenhower High School to develop after-school safety and enrichment programs that will eventually serve 150 different high school students each week through the Community Learning Center.
The program is being funded through up to $751,000 in grants that were awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to Hope through Housing and the Rialto Unified School District in June.
The grants recognize the critical needs at Eisenhower where students are among the most academically and economically disadvantaged students in California . Coupled with an anti-violence curriculum, the program will help at-risk youth prepare and pass the California High School Exit Exam (a State requirement to receive a high school diploma) while also providing opportunities for youth leadership and community involvement.
Hope Through Housing is also finalizing plans to launch a county Head Start program at the Community Learning Center , marking the first time that the county program has been operated at this type of neighborhood-based facility.
“While many people know Head Start as a child development program, they are unaware that our mission is to empower low income families and move them toward self-sufficiency. Our partnership with Hope Through Housing is a natural fit and marks our first foray into community development,” said Ron Griffin, Director of the county’s Preschool Services Department. “These services will be available to the families of Citrus Grove as well as those from the surrounding area.”
Head Start offers a variety of services for children and their parents, from full-day preschool and health services to adult education, job training and parenting classes. Griffin said the County will work with Hope Through Housing to tailor its Citrus Grove programs to meet the needs of the community.
National CORE partnered with the City of Rialto to redevelop the neighborhood of deteriorating condominiums into a community of 152 newly-reconstructed affordable apartments. S ince 2005 when National CORE took ownership, violent crime in the area has dropped 79%, and overall crime fell 68%.
“This transformation is astounding and wonderful,” said Grace Vargas, Mayor of the City of Rialto . “As a community, we can take pride in this new neighborhood that provides safe and affordable homes to struggling families.”
District 62 State Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto), who was on hand for Thursday’s festivities, praised the City of Rialto and National CORE, calling Citrus Grove a successful model for other communities to emulate.
“I am pleased that the partnership between the City of Rialto and National CORE has significantly expanded high quality, affordable housing options in Rialto . Citrus Grove has certainly improved the quality of life and sense of community for residents in my district,” said Carter.
Through the redevelopment, each unit at Citrus Grove underwent major reconstruction and 52 units were expanded from two-bedroom, one-bath units into spacious three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments.
All units received new appliances, roofing, carpets, windows, doors, bathroom fixtures, plumbing, electrical systems, drywall, exterior stucco and landscaping. Other added amenities included a gated entry, centralized laundry facilities and a new tot-lot.
“Living here has been a blessing for me and my family,” said resident Jaquaya Hall, whose children range from 3 to 11 years old. “It’s quiet. It’s safe. It’s safe for my children to play at the tot-lot or to walk to the Community Learning Center . This is the most beautiful apartment I have ever had in my entire life.”
Funding for the Citrus Grove of Rialto was provided through tax-exempt bonds, tax credits, HCD Multi-Family Housing Program funds, San Bernardino County HOME funds and other public sources to augment conventional financing sources to acquire and rehabilitate the project.
“We couldn’t be happier with the positive impacts we are having on this community, which reflects our core mission of providing a nurturing and affordable environments where people can live, grow and succeed,” said Jeffrey Burum, Chairman and Founder of National CORE. “Working with our partners at City of Rialto , the County of San Bernardino and in the Rialto School District , we are providing for the physical and social needs of the community.”
As a master developer, Rancho Cucamonga-based National CORE oversaw all aspects of the project, from development and construction to property management and delivery of on-site social services. By making a long-term commitment to maintain each of its affordable housing communities in perpetuity, National CORE will manage, maintain and offer social services on-site in Citrus Grove of Rialto for decades to come.