Cocoa discusses future of historic community center

Joe Lee Smith Community Center 'the life, the heritage' of city, resident says

COCOA, Fla. – The city of Cocoa is holding a listening session and meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the future of the Joe Lee Smith Community Center.  

Cocoa City Manager John Titkanich said the current location on Washington Avenue is outdated and city officials recently backed a plan from 2014 that determined a new center should be built.

"We think we need to build a new center for the youth in our community," Titkanich said.

Cocoa city officials said the purpose of the meeting is to get honest input and feedback on a future home for the new community center, which could include ideas about building the center in a new location.

"This community center cannot move. It's been the life, the heritage and, hopefully, the future of this community," Cocoa resident Oliver Wells said. "This has been a mainstay of the community, so moving this will destabilize the community."

A lot of residents in the Diamond Square community of Cocoa said the Joe Lee Smith Community Center means a lot to them. They said it has given children something positive to do.

"If a new center was needed, why not put it right here where it is, because it’s already active," resident Janie Bryant said.

The city of Cocoa said the new community center could stay in the same area or it could possibly be built in Joe Lee Smith Park, if approved by the City Council.

A few residents recently told the city that nearby Provost Park could also be a good option because, they said, it’s more centrally located.

Titkanich said the city backed a plan to build a new community center since the current one is very old. A similar redevelopment plan was made back in 1998.

"The update was done in 2014 that called for a new center because the center is so outdated. It has plumbing issues, and it was built around the time where there was lead-based paint," said Titkanich.

Read the 2014 redevelopment plan here.

Titkanich said he hopes residents can come together and agree on a new home for the community center.

The meeting on Wednesday will be held at the Cocoa Civic Center in Cocoa Villages at 6 p.m.

After the community meeting, the city will pass along the ideas to the City Council, which will discuss them two weeks from now, at the next council meeting.

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