Gulfton’s $23.5 million community center begins construction

Construction began Thursday in Gulfton on a $23.5 million community center intended to provide a hub for nonprofits, multi-purpose recreational spaces, youth services and more.

The two-story, 55,000-square-foot community center is funded by St. Luke’s United Methodist Church primarily through membership, donations and grants, according to a news release. Located at 6856 Bellaire Boulevard, the community center will be an extension of the Church of Gethsemane campus.

The community center intends to be “a new era between a long-standing local church and the multicultural community it serves,” the press release said. The church is trilingual and is located in one of Houston’s most diverse neighborhoodsAccording to Houston’s Complete Communities initiative, in 2015, 59% of Gulfton residents were born outside the United States, compared to 29% for Houston as a whole. According to census data, Gulfton also has 43% of residents below the poverty line, compared to 19% in Houston.

Dr. Tom Pace, senior pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, said the community center, which does not yet have an official name, will be “the future of Gulfton.”

“St. Luke’s was very motivated to create the community center,” Pace said, “by our belief and practice that we are here to make a meaningful difference in our city, not just for ourselves, but for others. It’s more than a partnership of service providers, we see our purpose as connecting people, creating an authentic community, and empowering people to work together.

Pace said the project will continue to be called Community Center and let the community decide on an official name for the Center. “We want to involve all stakeholders and come up with a name that reflects the image the community has of what this building is.”

The project and will house four non-profit organizations – Legacy Community Health Care, Houston Review, PX Project and Connect the community. The church will also partner with the Small Steps Nurturing Center, a tuition-free early childhood education program for economically at-risk children ages two and three.

The community center will also house a community healthcare clinic, a range of multi-purpose recreational spaces, a full gymnasium, youth hall, workforce training and development program, classrooms and offices, space for community events and meetings and a large green area with adjoining football pitches.

Reverend David Horton, senior pastor of St. Luke’s Gethsemane campus church, said the community center was designed to focus on area children.

“The idea is to focus on a small geographic center with high-impact programs,” Horton said in a statement, “with the goal of creating an epicenter of transformation that truly changes lives, integrating education, well-being and mentoring”.

The groundbreaking ceremony was attended by U.S. Representative Lizzie Fletcher, Houston City Council members Edward Pollard and Sallie Alcorn, and Houston Pro Tem Mayor Dave Martin.

“We think that’s where hope has an address,” Pace said, “and that kind of transformation, we hope, will get everyone working together, and that includes private, public, faith-based and secular,” Pace said.

The planned completion of the community center is scheduled for the end of 2023.

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Jill E. Washington