AP NEWS

Jewish Community Center to renovate its Meyerland campus

April 4, 2019

Eighteen months after Hurricane Harvey flooded nearly all of its facilities, the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center is now making plans to further renovate its Levit campus in Meyerland.

The JCC or the “J” has 250,000 square feet of facilities. CEO Joel Dinkin said only the gymnastics building and tennis center were spared as Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of water across the Houston area in August 2017, and more specifically around 10 feet in the JCC’s lower level.

Some parts of the JCC like the main first floor, fitness center, playground and its Mystical Garden have already been rebuilt and updated, but the board of directors voted in March to begin work with architects from Gensler to revive the rest of the campus.

Dinkin said because a capital campaign had been in process before the storm, some work had already been done. He said the decision to stay and rebuild the Meyerland campus was not all that hard as its leaders saw the community response to Harvey’s devastation.

“We were also excited about the fact that you could see a lot of homeowners in Meyerland and the surrounding areas, Bellaire and Maplewood and other areas that flooded, who also made a commitment to stay and to renovate and elevate, etc.,” Dinkin said. “We just felt that the synergy of where we are today is where we want to be tomorrow, and I think that was the decision. It really wasn’t — it took some time — but it really wasn’t that difficult of a decision to get to.”

The JCC had never flooded until Harvey, Dinkin said. Since then, floodgates were installed around the property last December to protect from future floods, as well as a wall on the front border of the campus because the flooding affected that side of the facility worst.

The J intends to be fully operational during the renovations, and the Jewish Federation plans to remain on the campus also.

“There are several key elements being addressed. Some include accessibility into and around the J, state-of-the-art aquatics facilities — for example, we do know that we will need to replace the indoor pool — mitigation against future flooding, security enhancements and creation of flexible and enticing programming spaces,” according to a statement the JCC released.

Also, important features will include new general and executive locker rooms, a new indoor pool and more flexible spaces for programming. More details will be shared once the master planning process is completed later this spring, the release said.

“Once plans are finalized, we will begin to create a fundraising plan and establish meetings with community leaders to share ideas, discuss goals and lay the foundation for a capital campaign,” according to the release.

Dinkin said the JCC is important to not only to the Meyerland area but to individuals and families that come to visit it from more than 40 zip codes across greater Houston.

“We just have such a wide spectrum of programs and services from infants through older adults that we provide something for almost everybody. And many of our programs are destination programs, so in addition to being a neighborhood center in terms of serving the neighborhoods in and around the JCC, we are a community center as well,” Dinkin said. “The reach is the quality and the reputation of the programs and the breadth and the depth of the services that we provide.”

He said the feedback from the community has been positive and that he too is looking forward to the work’s completion.

“We’ve heard both excitement that we’re still staying here as well as excitement over the fact that we are going to be making a significant reinvestment into the campus.”

For further information on the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, which is located at 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd., visit https://www.erjcchouston.org/.

tracy.maness@hcnonline.com