Wally Choice Community Center in Montclair Reopens! (VIDEO)

It’s a brand new day for the Wally Choice Community Center.

The project to modernize the community center and parking lot in Essex County Glenfield Park was completed today (Thursday, June 28), as part of the Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.’s ongoing initiative to modernize parks and recreation facilities to ensure they meet the community’s needs.

Cutting a ceremonial ribbon inside the building with the County Executive are (from left) Wally Choice, Jr., Wally Choice, Celine Choice (behind the County Executive), Hailey Root, Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation President Albert Pelham, Montclair Councilor Dr. Rene Baskerville, Grassroots Manager Catherine Nichols, Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson and Freeholder President Brendan Gill. (Photo Courtesy of Essex County)

“We are pleased that the renovations to the building and parking area were completed ahead of schedule because it enables the community to enjoy the improvements for a full summer,” DiVincenzo said. “The Wally Choice Community Center is a landmark building in Montclair and is the home base for a variety of organizations, recreation programs and events. The fresh, new look of the building makes it a more inviting place for park visitors and will ensure the community’s needs are met for generations to come,” he added.

“This is a special day. The County has done a wonderful job updating this building, and we will make sure it continues to serve the community for another 50 years,” said Celine Choice, wife of Wally Choice, the founder of Montclair Grassroots and the person for whom the community center is named.

The modernized building and new parking area drew rave reviews from community leaders and local elected officials.

“This is a special moment for all of us and a testament to the history of this park,” Freeholder President Brendan Gill said.

“This is where I grew up. The renovations are magnificent; it’s bright and modern, but the soul and heart of the place have been maintained. This gives our seniors and children a great place to socialize and recreate,” Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson said. “Welcome home! I’m so grateful to share this moment with everyone,” Councilor Dr. Rene Baskerville said. “This is such a wonderful improvement for the community,” Councilor Robert Russo said.

“This represents a lot of work and the improvements will benefit everyone who uses the building,” Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation President Al Pelham said. “Joe D. made promises to upgrade this facility and his promise is completed today,” he added.

The Community Center, named for Montclair Grass Roots’ founder Wally Choice in 2009, received a complete makeover. Restrooms were upgraded with new fixtures to meet current ADA codes; the kitchen was modernized with new equipment; the ceiling and floor tiles were replaced; HVAC, fire alarm and lighting systems were upgraded; interior and exterior walls were painted and refinished; and exterior lighting was upgraded. The paved area in front of the community center also received a facelift. The asphalt surface was replaced with brick pavers and a new driveway onto Maple Avenue was created so motorists do not have to drive through the park to reach the parking area. New landscaping also was planted. Work started in early March was completed in four months.

USA Architects from Newark was awarded a $168,500 contract to design the upgrades to the Wally Choice Community Center and two comfort stations in Essex County Brookdale Park. Barreto Dowd Landscape Architects from Howell designed the new parking lot. Daskal Construction from Wallington was awarded a publicly-bid contract for $1,103,660 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided. The improvements were funded with grants from the NJ Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, and the Essex County Capital Budget.

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