Village celebrates opening of community pavilion

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
Urbancrest Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. and a delegation of council members, community leaders, spiritual advisers and developers prepare for the ribbon cutting at the grand opening of the Quinichett Pavilion on May 3.

The prospect of a prolonged construction project taking place near their homes would not thrill most residents, but the one that was slated to be built adjacent to hers had Vera Ziglar-Zimmerman buzzing with anticipation.

For years, the village of Urbancrest resident had been hoping to see the construction of an enclosed shelter house in the community and for years had been denied that opportunity. She was tired, she said, of having to look outside of the area for an affordable place to host family gatherings and celebrations, and especially tired of having to host them at the open shelter house at Martin Luther King Park.

“We would all be packed into that little space with bugs flying around us and our food, and sometimes the rain would be coming in at us,” she said.

So when she heard that council had approved the construction of an enclosed shelter house in 2016, she was beyond ecstatic.

“I was so pleased to learn we were finally getting one,” she said.

The initial groundbreaking was pushed back due to inclement weather, but when they finally put those shovels on the dirt in the summer of 2017, Ziglar-Zimmerman was right there watching.

As the months went by, she continued to observe the construction process, becoming more and more excited as the building took shape. And when it appeared the exterior structure was finished, there was no word as to when it would open.

What happened to cause the long delay, said village Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr., was a plethora of issues stemming from the construction company the council had hired to undertake the project.

“It was a bit of a mess for a while,” he said.

It began, he explained, when contractors expressed their discomfort at some of the material requests the company, Palmetto Construction Services, was making.

Then came the firing of the first site manager who, Barnes said, had expressed similar complaints.

Shortly thereafter, the two parties went into arbitration and the company defaulted in 2019. The Messenger reached out to the last known number and email address for comment on these allegations, but the line was not connected and the email bounced back.

Despite the headaches and delays, Barnes said there was a dogged determination to have the opening of the pavilion take place as soon as it was safely possible.

On May 3, that day finally came with the grand opening of the Quinichett Pavilion, which was named in honor of Samuel and Ella Quinichett, the first African American family to settle in the village. Barnes said though the construction of the pavilion was an unexpectedly long and exhaustive process, it stands as an example of the spirit and perseverance of the community.

“Sometimes you end up walking on the rough side of the mountain and when you reach the top it is smooth sailing on the other side,” he said during the ceremony.

Though there are some drainage and sound issues that still need to be worked on, Barnes said the million dollar pavilion is now open for business.

“We’ve already got people signed up and lined up (to use the building),” he said.

While Ziglar-Zimmerman has yet to add her name to that list – she primarily plans to attend graduation celebrations and family gatherings this summer – she said she was thrilled with the end result.

“It was a long time coming but it was worth it,” she said. “It looks beautiful and it’s so exciting to have this in our community.”

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