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Harebreaks Community Centre to open this weekend in The Square, Watford
A new "community hub" for the Harebreaks will open this weekend, bringing with it a new studio for a performing arts school.
A family fun day is being held to celebrate the refurbishment of Harebreaks Community Centre, in The Square, where there will be performances by young people and free art and craft workshops.
The centre, which has been renamed Harebreaks Community Hub, has been refurbished by Watford Community Housing Trust which has a 20 year lease on the building.
In March the Watford Observer reported how the borough council paid just £58,524.18 for "essential repair works" to the building after it was vacated by Age UK Hertfordshire in 2010.
The building was one of two, including another in Exchange Road, for which the charity was presented with a £500,000 repair bill that it refused to pay.
The move led to a bitter dispute between Age UK Hertfordshire and senior figures at the council.
The council said it has been able to reduce the bill after Watford Community Housing Trust agreed to take on the building and invest about £200,000 turning it into a community centre for the area.
Watford’s mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, and head of the housing trust, Tina Barnard, will open the new hub at the event tomorrow (Saturday).
The ground floor of the new hub has been taken up by The Dan Tien Performing Arts School.
Amy Lazzerini, co-principal of The Dan Tien, said: "We are thrilled to be moving into the Harebreaks Community Hub.
"As local residents ourselves it's been great to work with Watford Community Housing Trust to bring such professional performing arts facilities to north Watford."
The performance club has contributed to the cost of the hub being specially fitted out as a performing arts space.
The Watford Deaf Club will also continue its long involvement at Harebreaks.
Tina Barnard, chief executive of Watford Community Housing Trust, said: "The Harebreaks is one of our heartlands so we feel very proud to offer this resource to the local community.
"We hope it will be a great home not only for The Dan Tien and the Deaf Club but for any other local group who needs a space to come together."
Gareth Lewis, director of property and new business at the trust, said: "We wanted the Harebreaks Community Centre because it is in one of our heartlands, and this is an important community area for us.
"We invested in the fabric of the building and will promote it as an attractive place for local people to get together. It's an exciting opportunity and we look forward to working with local residents and partners to make the most of this important community resource.
"We have been working closely with the Deaf Club, who currently use the centre, throughout the transfer. The Club has a long association with the centre and hosts local and national events for people who are hearing impaired."