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City Investment Brings Tolson Center For Community Excellence Closer To Reality

Screenshot captured via WebEx

In Elkhart, a new and improved Tolson Center is one step closer to reality.


The common council voted Monday night to transfer ownership of the community center to Tolson Center, Inc. –– the nonprofit that formed to reimagine the center after the city voted to close it in 2018.


The city also committed $5 million in economic development funding to help redesign the building and support new programming, as well as $700,000 in annual operating costs for the next 10 years.


Councilwoman Tonda Hines said at the meeting the funding and transfer were both “long overdue.”


“It’s been a marathon, and we’re entering a new marathon,” she said. “We don’t know what we don’t know, but together, this is going to be another huge investment to this community at large.”


Councilman David Henke argued that the project was too expensive for the city to fund without actually owning the community center, and that it lacked concrete measures of success.


“A plan of transition is not in place, yet this administration and some council members are emotionally driven to push this through,” he said. “Never  ever has the city spent this volume of taxpayer money without a substantial performance measure and obligations of performance.”


The project –– which involves expanding the existing center to accommodate more types of programming –– is expected to cost $11 million, including the city’s $5 million contribution and a $2 million grant from the Lilly Endowment.


The measure ultimately passed 7-1. Cyneatha Millsaps, chair of the 15-member board appointed last August to oversee the new Tolson, thanked the city for its involvement in reimagining the center.


“The new Tolson Center for Community Excellence is for the entire city of Elkhart,” she said. “If we all stand at this together, it may be one thing that this city will be able to say, ‘We did, we did well, and we did together.’”


Tolson officials have said they hope to break ground on the new community center by the end of this year. 


Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.


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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.
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