A ceremonial groundbreaking at the Tuesday signaled a major leap forward in in the .
The Neighborhood Club Recreation and Wellness Center, a project in partnership with , will be open to residents of the Pointes and also serve patients of Beaumont Hospital.
The current Neighborhood Club will be demolished in July and construction will begin by late summer and finish by December 2012 or January 2013.
The new center will rise on the site at Waterloo and St. Clair and extend beyond its current footprint. The new facility, at two stories tall and and far more spacious, will change the landscape of the corner a block off of the city's Village business district and across the street from a popular toddlers' park, tennis courts and baseball fields.
With a five-lane, warm water lap pool, a children's pool, a fitness area and more, the center will be a place to get and stay fit. It will also offer physical therapy, speech therapy and other forms of therapy to adults and to children. Trainers and therapists will also offer sports medicine and athletic enhancement training .
Beaumont's Center for Human Development will also be brought to Grosse Pointe and be named after John A. and Marlene L. Boll, whose charitable contributions can be seen throughout the Pointes and metro Detroit.
The center serves special needs children and gives children in need of multiple therapies one place to go for all of them. The Neighborhood Club preschool, sports programming and other enrichment activities will remain.
The Neighborhood Club will own and operate the facility while Beaumont Health System will be a long-term tenant and partner and offer its medical and health services.
About 150 supporters gathered under a tent on the lawn behind the Neighborhood Club to witness the groundbreaking on a project that's been three years in the making.
Eric Hunt, Beaumont's senior vice president of Integrated Health Services, apologized for the wait. "The economy got in the way right out of the gate," he said. Hunt complimented the Neighborhood Club for seeing through a vision that could benefit so many people.
"It's going to be a lovely, beautiful project" that can improve the health of the community, Hunt told the audience.
Peggy King Scully, president of the Neighborhood Club Board of Trustees, told the crowd Tuesday that this "is a once in a lifetime opportunity for high quality recreation and wellness options."
Beyond that, she said, the center will "differentiate the Grosse Pointes from other communities and attract residents and businesses."
She also thanked donors who have financially supported the center and announced that $3.3 million of a $4-million fundraising goal has been met. The remaining $711,300 will be raised all or in part by going to the community, she said.
The major donors so far, some of them the Pointes' most generous families, were thanked more than once during the hour long ceremony that finished with a handful of donors, board members and the , and interim director Sean Bruce, lifting 11 shovels and digging them into a symbolic pile of soil.
During the ceremony, John Bruce, the former executive director of the Neighborhood Club, was credited with showing leadership that kept the project in control even as complicated property swaps were made and property lines redrawn between the city and the Neighborhood Club. The City of Grosse Pointe and the City Council were also recognized for their roles in getting the project done.
"I know you will be amazed at the work they have done and will do," Bruce said.