The Austin Peace Corner has been given the green light from the city to build a new youth center in the community at a cost of 1.8 million.

The nonprofit, youth outreach organization plans to build the 7900 square-foot facility at Madison and Lavergne.

The Peace Corner Inc. bought the land at 5022 W. Madison St. from the city for $1. The center will have computer labs, classrooms and a gym, and will be constructed next to the Peace Corner’s headquarters at 5014 W. Madison. The new facility will be open to all community residents and-according to organizers-provide a safe place that’s free from gangs and violence.

“We are very blessed to expand into a larger facility,” said Peace Corner founder Father John Maurizio. “There’s nothing like creating change in the neighborhoods that need it the most, and I am just glad to be a part of it.”

The city’s Zoning Board of Appeals gave the project its final approval, and earlier this month, BidClerk announced that the project will begin construction within the next 90 days.

Maurizio, an Austin resident and Catholic missionary, founded the organization eight years ago. Maurizio said he hopes the new facility helps create peace in his West Side neighborhood. The father added that the existing center has been involved in gang mediation and has succeeded in persuading some gang members to give up the street life. The Peace Corner serves about 50 to 70 youths on average daily, with about 20 receiving legal counseling from volunteer attorney. About a dozen youth take GED courses.

Mike Johnson, an assistant to 28th Ward Ald. Ed Smith, maintained that the center will help keep kids safe by providing after-school programs, as well as job training, GED and computer classes.

“The youth center will be a great addition in Austin and contribute a lot to our community by providing jobs, affordable housing, better chances for investment in property and a wider range of services for the residents,” he said.

Some nearby residents are happy about the Peace Corner Center expanding.

“I have been hearing about this idea for a long time, but I never thought it would actually succeed,” said Dorothy Hall.

Her grandsons-ages 15, 29 and 22- have gone through a lot of challenges and want guidance and protection, she says. Hall believes this youth center could provide that.

“I have three grandsons that have all witnessed troubled life in Austin, and as soon as this building is built, I want them to be a part of it, just as much as they are now,” she said. “The Peace Corner is known to change kid’s lives and keep them off the streets, which is needed in Austin.”

Kathy Davis, a 32-year resident of Austin, adds, “I am beginning to feel proud to live in the Austin community, as long as I keep seeing changes like this.”

Maurizio said the center has received strong support from America’s Best Companies, which will be helping fund the Peace Corner’s expansion. As for the current facility, Maurizio said it will continue to operate.

austintalks.org@gmail.com

To learn more

The Peace Corner
773- 261-5330
www.thepeacecorner.org