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Vacant Church In San Ysidro To Become Community Center, Park

The vacant Monte Carmelo Catholic Church in San Ysidro, Feb. 17, 2017.

Photo by Claire Trageser / KPBS

Above: The vacant Monte Carmelo Catholic Church in San Ysidro, Feb. 17, 2017.

For people who live in San Diego's southernmost neighborhood, San Ysidro, there are not many public spaces to gather. But that will soon change.

For people who live in San Diego's southernmost neighborhood, San Ysidro, there are not many public spaces to gather. But that will soon change.

The nonprofit Casa Familiar is moving forward with a plan to turn the vacant 90-year-old Monte Carmelo Catholic Church into a community center and outdoor gathering space.

The project will have two parts. The church will become "El Salon," a neighborhood art space and community theater. The lot next to the church will become "Casa Patio," an open-air pavilion that can be used for social services, cultural programs and events.

By Claire Trageser

A model of the Casa Familiar project planned at the site of a vacant San Ysidro church, Feb. 17, 2017.

Casa Familiar has been working with UC San Diego architect Teddy Cruz on the project and adjacent affordable housing for 10 years.

David Flores, Casa Familiar's development director, said it's important to provide people with more than just a place to live.

"It's much more important to figure out at the same time that we're adding affordable housing, how do we make sure the community has the services that it needs," he said.

His nonprofit is now able to move forward on the project thanks to a $450,000 grant from ArtPlace America, a group of foundations and federal agencies that promote art. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

"You don't hear what really happens in border communities," Flores said. "This is our moment to move forward in leadership, in showing the rest of San Diego what a community like San Ysidro can do."

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