FILE - Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial located on the National Mall on the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.

(The Center Square) – The City of Spokane has received a $1.35 million grant from the state Department of Commerce to reroof the Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Community Center.

Although the council is often divided in votes along ideological lines, the seven city councilors agreed unanimously Monday to authorize expenditure of the funds. A special ordinance was required to allow the city to formally add the state award to the 2022 budget.

City officials agree that the project will positively affect the "historically underserved" community in the East Central neighborhood. Improvements to the roof will allow the MLK center to lease out more space and, therefore, provide additional services to area residents.

In 2018, a capital needs assessment identified deficiencies at the MLK center that included the need for a full roof replacement. The roof had been problematic for years, causing the center to shut down some rooms and sections of the building due to water damage, according to city records. 

Last year, the city asked Rep. Marcus Riccelli and Sen. Andy Billig, both Democrats from Spokane, to advocate for funding to to make repairs. In June 2021 the city was notified that its request would be granted. A contract then had to be drawn up between the city and Commerce about how the money would be used.

The project includes an asbestos survey and abatement if necessary, and a complete tear off and replacement of the center’s roof.

The work will be performed by a private contractor and is expected to be completed in September.

Data will then be collected by the city to determine the effect of the project by racial, ethnic, gender identity, national origin, income level, disability, sexual orientation or other disparity.

A post-construction meeting will then be held at the center to discuss the positive impacts of the project for the neighborhood that is considered one of the most ethnically diverse in the county.

That meeting and data collection is in keeping with a decision by the council in December to prioritize conversations about civil rights. Toward that end, the council created the Office of Civil Rights, Equity and Inclusion.

City officials said the new department is intended to promote “the removal of historical and existing barriers to access to services within the boundaries of the city and work to eliminate discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations for all people.”

The MLK center was created over 40 years ago and has been nationally and regionally recognized for its social services, which include cultural enrichment programs for children and families.

“We are a leader in providing research-based best practice services that ensure school success and healthy families, while maintaining a strong neighborhood base to help build the East Central community,” states the center’s website.