NEW ORLEANS -- Closed since Hurricane Katrina, construction crews are busy breathing life back into Uptown's Lyons Memorial Center. City officials say the $4.98 million project at Tchoupitoulas and Louisiana will wrap up this spring.
Neighbors say it's a long time coming.
"Let me see what you're working on," the hum of about two dozen kids could be heard inside Youth Empowerment Project's new youth center building in Central City on Monday night.
"This center is important to this neighborhood because we have a lot of kids who would not have an opportunity to be a part of a wonderful after school program," said Glenis Scott with Youth Empowerment Project.
The free after-school program on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard is open until 7 p.m. It is where youth can relax, do homework, play games, get tutoring and most importantly stay out of trouble. Scott knows all too well that more resources like this are needed in New Orleans.
"It's unfortunate. I know post-Katrina a lot of centers, a lot of programs that NORDC ran closed down," said Scott.
One of those facilities is the John P. Lyons Memorial Center on Louisiana Avenue. Renovations are currently underway to create a state-of-the-art recreational facility at the location. Corporate donations from the NFL and Chevron will also help fund a new dance education space and computer room at the center.
"We're anticipating that it will become sort of the hub of activity for all the recreation in the area, and its something that's really needed," said Edward McGinnis with the Irish Channel Neighborhood Association.
The citizens group and other neighborhood associations have been strong advocates for the reopening of the Lyons Center. McGinnis hopes it will not only unify the community but be a positive outlet for local youth.
"We'll be able to do more activities. It's really going to concentrate our efforts. So hopefully we can reach out to more kids in the neighborhood," added McGinnis.
It's too early to tell if crime in this Uptown neighborhood will go down once the center reopens. However, one youth advocate knows its a step in the right direction.
"I know it's a very valuable, central location to get some of the kids from the community [involved]," said Scott.
A city of New Orleans spokesperson says the Lyons Center will be one of five NORDC playgrounds and facilities that will see major capital improvements through the Super Bowl Host Committee's community initiative. It is slated to open in May 2013.