The Mission of the Cornerstone Community Center is to serve as a facilitator for community development by providing a safe, welcoming environment for the delivery of information, social services, recreational activities and cultural events that serve the diverse needs of people in the South Haven neighborhood and throughout West Tulsa.
The Vision being pursued by GCCDP is to utilize the new 20,000 square foot multipurpose Cornerstone Community Center – through partnerships with proven agencies and programs – as a focal point for serving the social, medical and basic "human" needs of the West Tulsa area while seeking further neighborhood revitalization opportunities.
The Cornerstone Community Center is designed as a safe, welcoming multigenerational environment for educational, social welfare, cultural and recreational programs…while also functioning as a point of delivery for agencies which provide medical, dental, vision screening and mental health services (via Morton Comprehensive Health Services, Counseling & Recovery Services of Oklahoma, CREOKS Behavioral Health Services and other providers); social services (via Family and Children's Services, Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS) and Goodwill Industries job training programs); youth leadership programs (via Camp Fire USA, Green Country Council of Girl Scouts, Life Strategies International and other agencies); and food and clothing distribution (via Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and local donations).
A Little-Known Chapter of Tulsa History
The South Haven neighborhood in West Tulsa was originally established in 1919 as an outlet for black families overflowing the city's then-flourishing Greenwood district. Following the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, the population of South Haven swelled quickly with those fleeing the destruction in North Tulsa. By the time South Haven was annexed into the City of Tulsa in the mid-1960s, what had been a working class black area was largely integrated and the area fell into rapid decline. With absentee ownership and property vacancies becoming the norm, this "transitional neighborhood" experienced a sharp increase in crime and social problems.
While many observers acknowledge Tulsa as being one of most beautiful and generous cities in the country, the little-known South Haven community had been neglected for so long, in fact, that most Tulsans – even life-long residents of the city who live east of the Arkansas River – didn't even know that it existed.
In several significant…yet incomplete…steps, Tulsa community leaders have responded to the challenges of South Haven. One of the first major initiatives was to rid the area of rampant criminal activity. Through the cooperative efforts of the Tulsa Gang Task Force, the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies, a "sting" operation in the early 1990s resulted in over 40 drug-related arrests and the seizure of 16 properties – with the properties ultimately being converted into loving homes through Habitat for Humanity. Habitat has now built more than 85 houses in South Haven, with spaces available for several more. The Tulsa Housing Authority also addressed a critical need in the area through construction of South Haven Manor, a subsidized residential complex along West 56th Street.
Although these are all encouraging developments in neighborhood redevelopment, Cornerstone Community Center stands in the center of an area with no schools, libraries or other large-scale public facilities – and low-income residents must rely on an often unreliable public transportation system as their only connection with needed social services, medical care and other community resources.
Originally initiated as an outreach by a small, interracial church in West Tulsa, a diverse group of community leaders established the Greater Cornerstone Community Development Project, Inc. (GCCDP) in 2004. The group elected officers, established by-laws, and conducted a formal Needs Assessment to identify specific NEEDS of residents in one of the city's most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Conclusions from the Needs Assessment clearly revealed a compelling necessity for neighborhood-based programs to serve a variety of medical, social and family support needs in the immediate area…and an appropriate facility through which to deliver them.
The next significant step was a comprehensive fundraising Feasibility Study to validate the viability of a multi-purpose Community Center in the heart of South Haven. Results of this study – followed by discussions with the Tulsa Community Foundation and other potential supporters – helped "fine-tune" project planning into four major programming categories:
- Education, tutoring and mentoring;
- Medical, dental and mental health services;
- Food and clothing distribution; and
- Community assembly, performance and recreation opportunities.
As programming opportunities emerged and partner organizations exhibited growing interest in the project, GCCDP (with financial support from the Mervin Bovaird Foundation) employed Tri-Arch, PLC, to develop a suitable architectural design. Schematic designs and cost estimates for a 20,000 square foot Community Center facility resulted in project budget of $6,995,132 for site development, construction, start-up and an operating endowment. After almost 18 months of work coordinated by Flintco Constructive Solutions, the Cornerstone Community Center was opened in October 2012.