HALLANDALE BEACH (CBSMiami) - The new public pool set to open this month in B.F. James Park in Hallandale Beach represents a promise kept that was made to the Black community by city leaders decades ago.
It also represents the turning of a page in life for many hired to build it, many of whom could not get jobs because of past run-ins with law enforcement.
"It's a source of opportunity and tremendous pride for this community," said Murvin Wright, who runs the Palms Community Action Coalition. "Over half of the people that are working on the site now are from our community," he said.
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"Many of these guys needed second chances because they couldn't get an ordinary job," said James Alexander of Alexander & Johnson Project Management. "They've done a great job and to be part of a project this special and this historic is quite rewarding."
The story of the new pool, set to open July 12, can be traced back several decades and several blocks to the west, where what was known as "the old Dixie pool" is now covered with asphalt.
"In the 60's, there was only one pool in the Black community," said Wright. He was taught how to swim by lifeguards, like Oreste Blake Johnson from whom a park is named on which the old pool site sits at 900 NW 8th Avenue. "It was a very essential part of our community," said Wright. "It was a meeting point."
But the old Dixie Pool fell into a state of disrepair.
It was closed in the early 90s and turned into a surface for skating but Wright says it was hardly ever used for that.
"Very few people here skate," Wright said.
When the pool was closed, city leaders promised the community they would build them a new pool.
"This was 40 years ago," said Wright. "Now, in 2014, we have our brand new pool."
The new pool and park is part of Hallandale Beach's Citywide Parks Master plan. It's the second city park to be completed in the first phase of the plan. The negotiated contract with the general contractor, Burkhardt Construction Inc., requires that more than 50-percent of the $7.1 million in direct construction costs for the parks in the plan be reinvested into the city. That works out to about $3.6 million dollars going to city laborers and subcontractors.
"The economic impact of this is huge in itself because of the amount of revenue that stayed in the community," said Wright.
"The money stays in Hallandale, you know, my guys, we live here, we shop here, we pay taxes here," said James Alexander.
B.F. James Park, home of the new pool which some community leaders hope to name after the late Arington Steve Clark, a lifeguard at the old Dixie Pool in the 60's, features the pool with a sloped access to address the needs of children, seniors, and the disabled.
The park, which also has a play area, lighted basketball courts and fitness trail, is named for a former educator and principal of the city's first elementary school that served the Black community.
"There's a lot of history here on this site," Wright said. "It has a special place in the heart of the Black community here in Hallandale Beach."
With the success of the B.F. James Park project, the city hopes voters will approve a $58.5 million bond referendum later this year to continue upgrades to other city parks and complete the city's parks master plan.
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