The community will soon be able to enjoy the renovations at the historic John Chavis Memorial Park.
Those renovations include a new community center, large plaza with a water feature, a playground and event spaces.
Read on to learn about the rich history of the park and new functions for the future.
Built during segregation, the Southeast Raleigh park has been significant for generations of Black residents in Raleigh.
The park was named after John Chavis, a prominent 19th century free Black man who was a teacher, minister and activist.
Opened in 1937, the park included the carousel that is still in use, playgrounds, a baseball diamond and a pool, according to the Chavis Park Carousel Landmark Designation Report by M. Ruth Little.
During a time when few facilities with features of Chavis Park were accessible to Black families, Chavis Park drew people from all over the state to enjoy the park or catch a baseball game by the Raleigh Tigers or Grays.
Renovations for Chavis Park is a long time in the works. The first master plan was developed in 1971, according to the city, updated in 1994 and then again in 2014. Though funding was approved in 2014, five years passed before the city selected a bid for the project in July 2019, the News & Observer reported.
When will Chavis Park re-open?
On June 12, the John Chavis Park will re-open to the public after at 10:30 a.m. ribbon cutting. Activities will follow, including free carousel rides. The interactive water feature, similar to a splash pad on a large plaza, will also be open. See more on the city site as the date gets closer.
See inside the new community center
The newly constructed community center is 41,600 square feet and is designed to meet LEED Silver standards.
The gymnasium includes 6 basketball goals, a volleyball court, 3 pickleball courts and an elevated walking track (14.6 laps is one mile).
An event space with an adjacent warming kitchen includes a balcony overlooking the plaza and the DT Raleigh skyline.
The second floor balcony off the event space:
The center includes a dance studio that could also be used for yoga classes. A separate fitness room will include treadmills, weight training equipment and a view of the Raleigh skyline.
A glass collage, “Chavis Reclaimed,” by Durham artist David Wilson, is baked into the glass to ensure the public art of Black history doesn’t fade.
The new playground includes play structures for different ages.
An event or meeting space in the historic, former location of the carousel is now air conditioned, with a warming kitchen and indoor and outdoor bathrooms. And don’t worry — the current carousel building is still there.
Hopes for the future
Grady Bussey, director of the Chavis Community Center, says the renovations pay homage to the foundation of the past while building excitement for the future.
The community center will soon be busy — summer camp begins two days after the opening, June 14.
He also anticipates that the community event spaces will soon host weddings, receptions, birthday parties, family reunions and anniversaries. Its location and the cost makes it “second to none,” he said.
While the new park doesn’t include a pool as it has in the past, it could go in at the site of the now-demolished community center. Should an anticipated parks bond get on the ballot, and be passed by voters, it could be a reality.