With the help of Pennsylvania state lawmakers, the Salvation Army's Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center moved closer to its fund-raising goal for construction of the massive new center in Philadelphia's Nicetown section.

This week, a group of lawmakers led by State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D., Phila.) presented Salvation Army officials with a $3.45 million grant from the state's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. The money will go toward the center's $69 million capital campaign, officials said.

Construction is to begin in January on the 105,000-square-foot facility, which will be built on 12.4 acres next to the former Budd Co. site on Wissahickon Avenue near Hunting Park Avenue.

The complex, named after the main developer of McDonald's Corp. and his wife, will include a gymnasium and fitness center, aquatic center, classrooms for after-school and job-training programs, a learning and technology center, cafe, culinary-arts training center and performance center. It is one of 30 such Salvation Army centers planned around the country.

The grant effort was led by Hughes and Sen. Mike Stack (D., Phila.).

"It's very important that we try to send positive messages about how things can work and give positive examples of good things going on in the community," Hughes said.

He cited the Kroc center as an opportunity to revitalize neighborhoods. "That leads to a foundation to do more investment. It also sends a positive message to communities . . . about what can be done if you have this kind of investment."

Chaz Watson, divisional director of development for the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia, said the grant was "critically important to our success."

Watson said the project has an overall capital budget of $69 million and has a private fund-raising campaign of $17 million. A further $3 million is needed to meet that goal.

Contact staff writer Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.