The San Pablo Helms Community Center is located on the campus of the Walter T. Helms Middle School in San Pablo, California. Prior to project development in 2012, the city had one of the lowest per capita ratios of recreational space to the population in the state. Further, it is a highly distressed low-income community with a Median Income of 59.1 percent. The population of San Pablo is approximately 31,000 people, with more than 8,000 living within a half-mile radius of the Center. The development of the San Pablo Helms Community Center faced a critical $1.8 million financing gap created by the loss of the Redevelopment Agency funding mechanism in California.
New Markets Community Capital (NMCC) filled this funding gap through an NMTC investment. NMCC and its parent, TELACU, became aware of the project through their extensive network of contacts in economic and community development throughout California. NMCC then partnered with the City of San Pablo and Chase Bank as the NMTC Investor to structure ‘Construction to Permanent’ financing, which included $9.4 Million of NMTC allocation and QLICIs totaling $9.306 million.
Project development would have been stalled indefinitely absent the gap equity funding provided by NMCC through the NMTC Program. The Helms Community Center opened in 2013 and now serves the public through a highly flexible and functional new 10,500 sq. ft. building. The facility features a large multi-purpose space with Wi-Fi and a kitchen for catering or cooking classes, two smaller meetings/classrooms, a teen lounge with a music recording room, a computer room with 20 computers, and a fitness room.
Outdoor space provides a playground, edible garden, and youth multi-use plaza. There is also a surface parking lot and restrooms accessible from the adjacent track and sports fields. The Center now actively promotes healthier lifestyles in the community, regularly receiving 6,000 to 8,000 visits per month and providing vital community recreation facilities and programming in the City of San Pablo for residents of all ages, with a particular focus on youth. In 2015, the Center served 66,663 members of the community in its facility, almost 17,000 more members than originally estimated. In a low-income community with unemployment at 2.22 times the national average, the creation of 74 jobs was also a welcomed additional benefit.