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Fri May 23, 2014

Lower 9th Ward Village Scrambles For Funding

The Lower 9th Ward Village community center building.
Credit Screen capture from Kickstarter

The Lower 9th Ward Village community center has fallen on tough financial times. Supporters are looking for help in small ways, because big promises of funding have fallen apart.

New Orleans native Ward McClendon — better known as “Mack” — bought the 10,000-square-foot building in the Lower 9th Ward in 2007.

Hurricane Katrina had left the neighborhood in ruins. McClendon hoped to use it as a place to repair antique cars, as he had before the storm.

But it evolved into a more ambitious goal. The building was revamped into a community center, a place where residents would decide its best use.

One was an indoor skateboard park. And big-name backers included rapper Lil Wayne and his sponsor, Mountain Dew.

“They dropped the ball. They didn’t finish it and made the situation worse," McClendon said. "Because building a relationship with the community that’s been damaged to this level, then they look at you like — I hold the keys so I must be the problem.”

The skateboard ramps are in place, but not in use. The deal fell apart amid permit problems and the severing of relations between Mountain Dew and Lil Wayne.

McClendon, who lives a few blocks from the center, says he’s now looking to the community and an online Kickstarter campaign to raise more than $160,000 to save the building from foreclosure.

No matter how much money is raised, McClendon says he’s optimistic the center will survive. He wants to offer programs to help young people and seniors.

“It may be smaller, maybe even bigger. I’m thinking big,” he said.

A benefit is planned tonight at Howlin’ Wolf in the Warehouse District.