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Teens share visions for Lathrop center
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LATHROP – More than two-dozen residents had the chance to imagine what the East Lathrop Community Complex would look like if they had their druthers during a public workshop Tuesday night at the Lathrop Senior Center.

And while some of the ideas were truly just daydreams, recurring themes registered with project designers LDA Partners of Stockton. The forum is designed to help shape what could eventually be the recreation destination being planned around the current Lathrop Skate Park and the existing Head Start center.

“Meetings like this really place the ownership of the project into the hands of the residents,” said LDA Partner Eric Wohle – who ran a breakout brainstorm session to gauge what exactly residents want to see when construction begins. “This gives us a chance to see what is wanted and what is needed and to gauge which direction would be the best way to proceed when the planning for construction actually begins.”

It’s been a year since the Lathrop City Council approved the East Lathrop Community Center Master Plan that will guide the development of the currently vacant land within the square confines of Sixth Street, L Street, Seventh Street, and Thomsen Street – the only one of the four sections that doesn’t have homes directly across the street from the future community park.

With initial plans calling for the construction of a youth and teen Center at the corner of Sixth and L streets, Tuesday’s brainstorming session expanded on the initial plan that is now calling for a 13,000-square-foot joint-use building that could include a satellite facility for the Lathrop Community Library.

While Christopher Navalta might be pushing the boundaries of eligibility for the future teen center, the third-generation Lathrop resident whose family owned a Victorian home across the street from the proposed site wants to make sure that the construction truly targets what the teens in the community want to see when it comes to a facility being proposed specifically for their use.

“Lathrop has always been community oriented – we’re truly a family city that appeals to those raising children,” Navalta said. “We’re a growing city and we have so much land to build on, but this has always been a family city and that’s what is making me think about wanting to stay.

“But I don’t want to see just another blank room with tables and chairs because that’s not what the kids of Lathrop want to see in something like that.”

A huge emphasis was placed on the performing arts and providing a place for young people to express their talents in a multitude of ways from a stage that caters to future thespians to a graffiti wall that allows for artistic expression in a controlled setting.

Vibrant colors were preferred by almost everyone who offered input into what the idea youth and teen center would look like, and the basic premise of providing a safe haven for children anchored the discussion.

“I think of Lathrop as a small community where you can still hear about things that are going on word-of-mouth from friends and people that you know in town,” said Anna Candelaria. “We’d get a lot of people interested in this if there was a push to draw in the youth faction – a group that enjoys the parades and anything that allows them to show off their talents and what they have to offer.”

Another public workshop will be held on Tuesday, March 9, at 6 p.m. inside of the Lathrop Senior Center to allow people to see which of the ideas proposed on Tuesday night are in fact feasible.