Prince George's County officials revealed plans yesterday to transform a decaying shopping center in Palmer Park into a modern government and commercial complex featuring an 8,000-square-foot gymnasium at which Sugar Ray Leonard, the hometown boxing star, will train for his championship bouts.
"We're going to turn Palmer Park into the boxing capital of the world," said Leoanrd, flanked at the announcement ceremony by County Executive Lawrence Hogan and local black leaders. "The boxing facility will be good for kids who want to become professionals, but the center as a whole will change the community's outlook on the future."
Hogan said the renovation project, financed by a $500,000 grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be completed by next fall.
The Palmer Park Shopping Center, which sits near Sherriff Road and George Palmer Highway in a predominantly black section of the county, once housed a Safeway supermarket and a Peoples Drug Store. Today, however, those two stores and most of the others in the center are boarded up.
Last year, the county bought the decaying center with a $600,000 federal grant. Over the last six months, county officials worked to complete the renovations plans for the complex which, according to planner Edward Chen, will be one of the few Hudfunded centers in the country that includes both public and commercial space.
The county's social srvices department will occupy nearly one-third of the multipurpose center, which will also include a police substation and an office of the county Health Department.
Leonard, the 1976 Olympic boxing champion who is undefeated in the professional ranks and will soon fight for the world welterweight title, said he would donate equipment to the new gymnasium, which is to be named in his honor.
Leonard said he would lease space at the gym and use it as a training facility in preparation for his welterweight and middleweight fights.
The rehabilitation program includes replacement of the building's roof electrical wiring, heating and cooling systems and refurbishment of the building's exterior. Repair and landscaping of the center's parking lot will be undertaken when funds become available, possibly in next year's Community Development Block Grant program, Hogan said.