Upper Darby Township has recently received a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to fund phase one of a new community center to serve the state's sixth-largest municipality.
"This project is a long time in the making. The idea is that we need a place to engage community members of all ages," said Vincent Rongione, chief administrative officer for Upper Darby Township.
Rongione says that a facility like this has long been awaited in Upper Darby.
"We want to have a bright, modern, forward-looking place, that Upper Darby residents can take pride in their community," he said. "Where they can gather in a place that feels energetic and forward-looking. Where they can access technology, information, and fitness."
The plan for this community center is to engage residents but also those close by in West Philadelphia, with a vision to build positive social activities for youth and adults in both communities.
"It's the combination of years and years of work on the part of Mayor Keffer," Rongione said.
While the project is currently in its feasibility phase, the new center will replace the current Welcome Center building located on the 7000 block of Walnut Street.
Architecture firm Buell Kratzer Powell has created a preliminary exterior rendering of the facility with the possibility of expansion upon community feedback.
Rongione says The Upper Darby Police Athletic League went dormant in recent years and use to run a popular boxing gym that he hopes to revive in this new facility.
"Upper Darby has a very strong tradition where our police athletic league use to operate The Upper Darby Boxing Gym. There are a lot of famous fighters and also regular folks who got their start and met their mentors in the Upper Darby boxing club," he added.
The feedback so far has been positive, Rongione says.
Mayor Barbarann Keffer of Upper Darby Township has long dreamed of this opportunity.
"Now more than ever, our kids need a safe place to play and learn after school," said Keffer. "This center represents a critical - and long overdue - step for our community. It will send the signal that Upper Darby is on the move as a forward-looking destination community for families and businesses alike."
The plan is to engage community members along each step of the process so that this community center can be beneficial and innovative for all in Upper Darby.