Midtown Ventura residents celebrated the opening of their new community center Saturday, hailing the strip mall office as a tool both to fight crime and spotlight their diverse neighborhood.
Wedged between a doughnut shop and an insurance office at 1700 E. Thompson Blvd., the Midtown Resource Center will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. daily. It's a place where residents can complain about code violations, report criminal activity and get information on city government.
It's also intended to combat drug-dealing and prostitution at Thompson Boulevard motels. Police officers, firefighters and code officials are expected to frequent the center, using it to fill out reports and meet with residents.
"Today marks a start for Midtown," said neighborhood leader Bill Barbee during a ceremony attended by two dozen city leaders and residents. "It's going to make Midtown a better place."
Community members have been working for about a year to open the center. The office space was donated by the strip mall owner, and about 35 volunteers have signed on to staff the facility. They estimate $15,000 a year will be needed to run it, and to that end, they held a mini flea market Saturday, selling everything from coffee cakes to used furniture.
Eventually, the center is expected to be used for after-school tutoring, Midtown Ventura Community Council meetings and even presentations by local artists.
"A lot of artists live in Midtown," volunteer Gene Pitman said. "It's really an eclectic place to live."