In May 2008, Crips gang members burned down the Holly Square Shopping Center in northeast Park Hill. More than four years later, the scorched earth is experiencing a rebirth. On Saturday, The Prodigal Son Initiative, a youth organization headquartered across the street, is leading a clean-up effort to make way for two basketball courts, a soccer field, two gazebos and two playground sets made possible by a donation from the Piton Foundation.
The project, says Prodigal Son founder Terrance Roberts, was "a vision where people literally laughed at me when they heard it -- the size of the project and how it looked a couple years ago. But now, nobody's laughing. We're really serious."
Roberts has been determined to create something positive out of the tragedy since the day the Holly was torched. A former gang member who grew up in the neighborhood, Roberts eventually left the life and started Prodigal Son in 2005. In 2010, he led another important cleanup that cleared the space for a peace mural and basketball courts.
But his vision was always much bigger -- and now it's coming to life.
"It means a lot to me," Roberts says. "This is my life's work all coming together." But, he adds, "this is not just for me, but for everyone who loves that community like I do."
The cleanup starts at the corner of 33rd Avenue and Hudson Street at 10 a.m. on September 1, and volunteers are needed. On September 8, the new courts and playgrounds will be revealed. To celebrate, the organizations behind the makeover are hosting a three-on-three basketball tournament, a five-on-five soccer tournament and a soccer clinic. Come this fall, the area will be improved further when construction begins on the Nancy P. Anschutz Community Center, which will be home to a Boys and Girls Club.
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