The Center was intended to be used as a community center and should continue operating as such - no matter whose hands it ends up in, according to a former director.
Hank Mitchell, whose late father P.D. Mitchell served as the patriarchal figure and guiding hand of the organization when it was known as the Bethune Douglass Community Center, feels it has long served the city well - as a gathering place for people, especially youths who've learned valuable life lessons there.
"This is needed for the city," he said. "The city should take it over."
The deed for the Center specifies that the facility must be used for a community center should it ever be sold. In fact, all previous deeds clearly spell out that restriction, noted Mitchell, a former city attorney who served a brief tenure as The Center's director.
The Center was built in 1979, just two years after the Revelopment Authority of the City of Williamsport deeded the land over to the city.
Prior to that, when it was known as the Bethune Douglass Community Center, it was located first on Walnut Street and later Park Avenue.
Hank Mitchell remembered those times as much simpler days for the city's youths.
Sure, kids got into trouble, but they weren't getting involved in drugs and shootings and stabbings as do too many of today's local youths.
"It was our second home," Mitchell recalled. "It was our school. It was our career center. It was our etiquette center. You learned how to contribute to the community rather than take from it. It was for black and white, not just black. "It was an important part of our heritage."
Parents, he said, knew where their kids were - at the community center.
He said he's saddened over the news this week that the county housing authority intends to move forward with plans to remove materials and occupants of The Center.
He fears that kids with no place else to go will have too much idle time and fall prey to bad companions and the crime that may be found on the streets.
In essence, it's to the city's advantage to take it over.
Heather Eisner, operations manager, echoed Mitchell's comments that deeds for the The Center going back many years clearly outlined that it should serve the public, providing social, recreational and education services to the community.
"Nothing has been sold yet," she said hopefully.
The most recent transaction occurred in September 2007 when the land and nearby Flanigan Park switched hands from the city to the county housing authority.
"The county got it for $1," Mitchell said.
In exchange, the city took over the Kennedy King housing project in the West End.
That site has since been sold to Moran Properties.
City officials reportedly agreed to the property swap in order to take advantage of federal funding sources available for the upkeep and improvement of the park and The Center.
Deed restrictions - that The Center and park remain open to the public for social, recreational and educational services - prevent the authority from selling the land without city approval and allow the city to retake the land if those restrictions are not honored.