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Group aims to turn vacant home in Niagara Falls into a community center

Most see an abandoned home with overgrown bushes and broken windows. The co-founders of the Highland Clubhouse see potential... and hope.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — There is a ton of work to be done at 1111 Grove Avenue in Niagara Fall's North End neighborhood.

Windows are busted out or boarded up. The grass and bushes are overgrown and hide a lot of the disrepair. 

Sure, it's an eyesore — and it has been for years — but Keyona Dunn and Krista Ehasz see potential. They also see hope.

The women are co-founders of the Highland Clubhouse. They want to transform the vacant home on Grove into a community gathering space. They envision it as a place for kids and adults, where they can have tutoring, mentoring, child care, workshops, and community events.

They say it's a much needed safe space in a neighborhood plagued by crime, violence, and social issues, like high teen pregnancy rates.

A longtime community center at 13th and Center closed years ago. The Highland Clubhouse co-founders would have loved to re-open the old center, but remediation and renovation work would have cost millions.

The cost of the Highland Clubhouse project is more modest, by comparison, but it's still an expensive undertaking.

The Niagara Falls City Council approved the sale of the building for the amount of back taxes plus $500, which amounts to a total of about $2,100. The renovation, however, is estimated to cost about $70,000.

The Highland Clubhouse hopes to sign off and officially take ownership of the property in the next month. They've also applied and are waiting for non-profit status.

The group raised about $9,000 so far through a crowd-funding campaign and matching donation from the New York State Health Foundation.

The Highland Clubhouse is working with an organization called Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative. They are the catalyst for resident-led projects to better the community.

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