Kids from the Avondale neighborhood help break ground at the new community center with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, state Rep. JoAnne Favors and District 8 City Councilman Anthony Byrd. (Photo: Staff)

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and several other local government officials broke ground on a project to rebuild the Avondale Youth and Family Development Center.

The entire project will cost about $6 million to complete, with $4.768 million already set aside from the city budget for construction of the building. District 8 City Councilman Anthony Byrd said that the remaining $1.3 million will be part of a separate contract for landscaping after the building is finished.

Although City Council only approved the budget for the new center in December, planning for the upgrade began a few years ago. Government officials made the decision to rebuild after community input expressed dire need for the new center. The current Avondale center was built in 1949.

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Berke said that after talking with community members it became clear the community needed an entirely new center instead of just renovations.

“We took your input, we listened to you about what was important to you, and we built a center that incorporates your ideas into the design,” he said.

The new building will include a full regulation gym with bleachers, a computer and reading lab, a multipurpose room, a full-size kitchen and expanded softball fields outside.

Community leaders want the new center to inspire the youth in the area to work hard and learn.

“[I hope this center] will give them hope,” Byrd said. “[I hope it will] let them know that you can dream and if you work together, anything is possible.”

A McCallie School student who lives in the Avondale neighborhood also spoke at the event about what the Avondale YFD center has meant to him.

Aaron Crowder said that he first learned to play football at the center, which ultimately led to his acceptance at McCallie.

“I believe that this is a new beginning for all of us and all of you, too,” he said.

Crowder also said he hopes that the center will cause a chain reaction through friends and future generations.

“That’s when the whole community is going to be inspired,” he said.

Berke said he hopes the community center upgrade will bring future developments to the neighborhood since it’s on an important corner in Chattanooga.

“This could really galvanize the area,” he said.

The current center will still be open to the public while construction on the new one begins. The project is slated to finish in early 2019.

Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah

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