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PUNTA GORDA | City council says historic rec center lease evaluation is not racial

Posted at 10:38 PM, Sep 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-12 22:38:00-04

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — A building nestled in Punta Gorda could be at risk of being used for a new purpose. The Cooper Street Recreation Center has historical value and is now a big talking point in city council meetings.

But recent community push-back could allow the rec center to continue being used as it has veen for generations. The Cooper Street Rec Center has been in Punta Gorda since the Jim Crow Era, and now people are fighting for it to stay.

Martha Beretta attended a city council meeting to voice her concerns. She says the center is a place where parents can find daycare for their children, and seniors can find fellowship.

"If Cooper Street is changed and the historic institution is not allowed to function independently as it has for over 50 years, then the last evidence of Black history in Punta Gorda will be erased," she said.

Jaha Cummings is Vice President of the Cooper Street Board and served on City Council. He is working to prove the center's community value to the council, which is a factor in their lease review process.

"We provided information to council on the social return on the investment, for both the youth services and the senior services," Cummings said.

The study mentions better mental health and higher college and high school retention rates.

"I think when council was able to hear the voices of citizens regarding how a community really feels about the center, and how important it is to it, I think they heard the community," Cummings said.