The new Alief Neighborhood Center will provide a variety of services to the southwest suburban town all under one ginormous roof.
This 70,000-square-foot facility houses a public library, a recreation center, a senior center, and a Women, Infants, and Children clinic operated by the Houston Health Department. In short, it certainly lives up to the description in a Texas Monthly magazine article as a “new model for what a community center should be.”
The new center was years in the planning. The finished product fulfills the dreams of many Alief residents and is a great example of three departments collaborating to fulfill a need in a community, city officials said.
This is the largest community center within the City of Houston’s facilities portfolio, according to General Services Department Assistant Director Richard Vella. The average size of the city’s community centers ranges between 25,000 and 30,000 square feet.
“By having one facility, the city realized savings during the construction of the underground infrastructure and building cost, as well as future savings in maintenance and operations costs over the life cycle of the facility,” he said.
Two current department directors and one former director — Rhea Brown-Lawson of the Houston Public Library, Stephen Williams of the Houston Health Department, and former HPARD Director Joe Turner, who retired in 2017 — met routinely to discuss the opportunity to build a center that could be transformational.
At the Alief Neighborhood Center, HHD administers a nutrition program which caters to seniors, while the WIC program caters to young mothers and children up to age 5. Health Department officials described it as one of the best examples of fostering intergenerational connections, saying it was a great opportunity for those programs to overlap and create an intergenerational approach to providing services.
HPL’s David M. Henington-Alief Regional Library, housed within the facility, includes state-of-the-art technology with increased computer services, multiple classrooms available by reservation, a BOOKLINK and 24-hour book lockers for convenience in retrieving checked-out items. The new library is larger and upgrades preexisting services such as a passport office, teen’s area and children’s section.
HPARD will provide programming for all age groups that, ranging from after-school and summer enrichment programs to senior programs, Soccer for Success, youth sports, and adult sports.
The center also features a fitness room with an indoor track, free and resistant weight training equipment, and a gym providing space for indoor sports. Additionally, HPARD renovations to the surrounding park include an in-ground skatepark, a new swimming pool, tennis courts, soccer pitches, baseball and softball fields, and meandering walking trails.
“This project became a reality through the dedication and determination of the community, Mayor Turner’s vision, City of Houston leadership, and positive collaboration between Houston Parks, Library, Health, and General Services departments,” Vella said.
Department officials said projects like this demonstrate HPARD’s passion about serving the community and fostering good outcomes.