CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – The future of the old Whittemore Park Elementary School in Conway is back in discussion once again. But now those future plans may stray away from the original ideas to turn it into a community recreation center. With over half-a-million dollars in grant money ready to renovate and rebuild the old Whittemore Park Elementary School, Conway city leaders see a new vision for the old school, and it may be in arts.
The building was donated to the City by the Horry County School district in January 2018.
Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy brought up the idea at a workshop recently and now the idea is up in the air. She says this would have the potential for changing lives, where young people’s talents can be discovered and enhanced.
Her hope is that volunteers will step forward and work with children who have special talents in arts, whether it be playing an instrument or public speaking.
Councilman William Goldfinch said this doesn’t mean the space will be an arts center in the traditional sense. He said the city has recognized needs for things other than sports and it’s important to foster growth in areas they don’t necessarily have coverage in.
“We’ve realized that when it comes to arts or music or things other than sports… to compliment sports.. to expose children to other categories and activities other than sports,” said Goldfinch. “This could be an opportunity to do this. So, to say it’s just going to be an arts facility or it’s just going to be a community center that focuses on one or two even three things, I don’t think is necessarily the case. I think we’re committed to working together to see that this is a community center that works for the community and its needs.”
Although everyone might not be on board with this idea yet, Councilman Shane Hubbard is a musician himself and is for the idea, if the city is able to afford it. He said he hasn’t seen anything like this in the area yet.
Hubbard said this is great exposure for children and will offer new opportunities for them to grow hopefully gets them off their cellphones.
Councilman Goldfinch said a challenge in this project all comes down to funding. He said it’s an old building damaged by Hurricane Matthew and needs a lot of rehabilitation work. The city received most of the funding, but it’s still relying on outside funding to help cover the costs.
He said this is not just an opportunity for the building itself, but an opportunity to better the neighborhood as well.
“I would love to see that this community center, arts center, whatever we end up calling it is a place regardless of where you live in Conway… feel safe and comfortable going to this facility.. to enhance whatever you are working on, whether it’s sports, whether it’s arts, whether it’s music, whether it’s some type of job skill. Whatever it may be, I just see this as an opportunity to not only better our community as a whole by allowing everybody in our community to participate in it, but I also see it as an opportunity to better that neighborhood, ” said Goldfinch.
There is no set timeline for this project yet, but leaders say they still need to restore the center first before any other actions are made.
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