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SOUTHWEST HOUSTON / Multipurpose center dedicated

SESHADRI KUMAR, HOUSTON CHRONICLE CORRESPONDENT

Thu 02/22/2007 Houston Chronicle, Section ThisWeek, Page 3, 2 STAR Edition

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Houston Mayor Bill White and District F Councilman M.J. Khan dedicated the city's new $4.1 million Southwest Multi-Service Center at 6400 High Star on Monday.

The 24,000-square-foot building in the Gulfton area houses a branch of Neighborhood Centers Inc.; the Mayor's Citizens' Assistance Office and Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs; and the Department of Health and Human Services' Bureau of HIV/STD Prevention, Women, Infants and Children Program and Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Houston Public Library will soon open an eLibrary in the center at an estimated cost of $1 million. The community hall is 3,650 square feet for public meetings.

Southwest Houston "is a great area within the urban metropolis of Greater Houston and it is most diverse," White said.

The need for a service center in the area was at the top of the list when he assumed office, White said.

It was promised for many years, but could not be built because of the lack of a suitable site and funds.

Added White, "You get a sense that Houston is on the move," with the opening of the center.

During the dedication ceremony, a group of residents from the area silently held signs protesting the proposed closure of a section of Rookin Street to cordon off the area between the new city multi-service center and the proposed Neighborhood Centers community center.

Services offered

The city center will offer health and library services in innovative ways and the experimental eLibrary will provide library services in a cost-effective way, White said.

White described the city employees who provide services as "every day heroes" and thanked them for making him look good.

Khan said the project was on the community's wish list for nearly a decade. After White took office in 2004, things moved quickly and within three years, Khan said, "we are sitting in one of the most beautiful city facilities."

Khan gave credit to community members.

With the center and a proposed new building for Neighborhood Centers Inc. across the street, the Gulfton area would become "one of the most desired areas of Houston," Khan said.

The area is poised to become a model community, he said.

Stephen L. Williams, director of the city's Department of Health and Human Services, welcomed those gathered for the ceremony. He said a $1.7 million Community Block Development Grant went into the construction of the center.

Major partner

Williams said Neighborhood Centers is a major partner with the city in developing programs for the center.

"We want this to be a model site. We will ensure that services are responsive to the community's needs," he said.

White and Khan unveiled a statue of a nursing mother made by Glen Smith, a Department of Health and Human Services employee.

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