A group representing the State Street corridor hopes to establish a new vision for the America and Roby Anderson Community Center on the city’s east side when it occupies the building starting next month.

The State Street Area Association and the city have agreed to a five-year lease for the community center at 421 McClure Road. The center is named after America and Roby Anderson, who launched the original Eastside Community Center.

The couple took that step in 1976 when they began offering meals to the hungry out of their garage. The building that became known as Eastside Community Center was built in 1978, and the Andersons began offering their annual Thanksgiving dinner, one of the center’s most popular services, the following year.

Under the terms of the lease that begins Feb. 24, the State Street Area Association will pay the city $1 each year.

Julie Bilz, president of the association, said the group is excited about taking over the center and hopes to develop different programs over the next five years as a way to generate revenue.

Bilz said the association was approached by the city, United Way and the Heritage Fund to reopen the center, which had been closed for a few months.

Conversations between the parties also centered around whether the group would be interested in operating the center as part of its mission statement and overall goals, Bilz said.

“We felt it was because the State Street Area Association has always been about east Columbus, so it kind of fit naturally,” Bilz said.

The center abruptly closed its doors in October 2015 after executive director Sue Lamborn and the entire board of directors resigned from their positions without any explanation.

A transition team consisting of representatives from United Way of Bartholomew County, Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, the State Street Area Association and city government then stepped in to find a way to keep the center afloat.

United Way also signed a six-month lease to become the tenant of the community center last February, paying the city $1 for the full six months.

City Councilman Dascal Bunch, who represents the city’s east side, foresees good things now that the State Street Area Association plans to occupy the building.

“My vision for the center and the State Street Area Association is to help the community over there,” Bunch said.

Bilz also said a strategic plan for the center will be discussed during the association’s 9 a. m. Saturday meeting at the Columbus Municipal Airport.

She also hopes the center will be a social gathering place for individuals in east Columbus and the surrounding area.

In addition, the association would like to work with different organizations and non-profit groups to make the center a hub where programs and events can be offered to the community, Bilz said.

Bilz said the timing is right for the State Street Area Association to take over the center, considering work underway to revitalize the State Street area.

“Hopefully it’ll be a bright future ahead,” she said.

Want to hold an event?

For more information on using the America and Roby Anderson Community Center for an upcoming event or activity, call Julie Bilz, president of the State Street Area Association, at 812-371-7459 or e-mail jabilz@msn.com.

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com