New center open to community, nonprofits

Natalie Reid Miller

A new, 5,200-square-foot structure with the most up-to-date features and amenities stands at 59 E. Strawberry Ave., on the site of a historic Washington institution.

Pete Cameron, great-grandson of Cameron Coca-Cola Bottling founder Wilfred Cameron, and his wife, Kathy, opened The Center on Strawberry on Wilfred’s old homestead and business property.

“It’s been very nice for my husband to get the property back in the family and leave a kind of legacy,” Kathy Cameron said Wednesday while giving a tour.

The center, which includes a 1,900-square-foot community room with a cathedral ceiling, attached catering kitchen, a conference room and offices, is intended to provide the community – and nonprofit organizations, in particular – an affordable option for events.

Due to the age of most city buildings, the Camerons saw a need for a meeting space with several areas that could accommodate small groups up to large crowds. They also identified a need for handicapped-accessible spaces. The entire structure, from the wide doors and hallways, to the bathrooms and shower, to the height of signs, is accessible.

“We really do want it to be a community space with a priority for our nonprofits,” Cameron said.

The Persad Center and Washington County Gay Straight Alliance rent office space.

Another feature they wanted was the ability to host more than one group at a time. That was achieved by constructing separate entrances, one that opens to the community room, and one that opens to the office and conference room area. The set-up also provides privacy for each party.

While the location allows for six parking spaces, including one handicapped-accessible space, there are many parking options because of the center’s proximity to Washington & Jefferson College, Citizens Library and the Main Street Farmers Market pavilion, said Cameron.

Construction started in June and was complete by the first of the year. The Camerons, with Pete working as the general contractor, used as many local contractors as possible on the job.

The center is “smart,” with technology including remote heating and cooling, Wi-Fi, integrated speakers and mobile television systems. Security measures such as video cameras are in place.

While the center is fully operational – several events already have been held – Cameron said she continues to add features and amenities as ideas are presented to her.

“We’ll see what (people) need and try to accommodate them,” she said.

In the conference room, which also is available for rent, Cameron has a display of intact and broken Coca-Cola bottles left over from the bottling company. She unearthed hundreds of pounds of the glass and has plans to turn the detritus into a work of art.

“I think what the Camerons are doing there is much needed for the community,” said Washington Mayor Scott Putnam.

For information on The Center on Strawberry, call 724-986-9415 or email