Officials with St. Luke's United Methodist Church hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking Aug. 11 on a new community center being planned in the Gulfton and Sharpstown area that, upon completion, will connect residents to nonprofits specializing in youth programs, health care, workforce training and mentorship.

Additionally, the new 55,000-square-foot, two-story center will provide space for recreation and community events, including a full-court gymnasium, dedicated youth hall, classrooms and offices, according to an Aug. 11 press release from St. Luke's.

“St. Luke’s has been highly motivated to create this community center by our belief and practice that we are here to make a significant difference in our city, not just for ourselves, but for others," St. Luke's senior pastor Tom Pace said. "This is more than a partnership of service providers. We see our purpose as connecting people, building authentic community and empowering people to work together.”

The center is being built on St. Luke's Gethsemane church campus at 6865 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, at a cost of $23.5 million, which is being funded by St. Luke's through a fundraising campaign. As of Aug. 11, the church had raised about 77% of its goal, or $18 million, with donations coming from church membership and church member family foundations, according to the release.

Key grants also came from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation, which is providing $2 million contingent on the project being fully funded by July 2023, and the David Weekley Family Foundation, which gave $250,000 subject to building construction beginning in 2022.

The health care clinic at the site will be run by Legacy Community Healthcare with the mission of helping the uninsured and underinsured, particularly teens and young adults, according to the release.

The nonprofit Houston reVision will also be housed at the center and will work to provide mentorship to youths who are at risk of getting involved in gang activities. The group will also run its soccer program for male teens and young adults using soccer fields on the Gethsemane campus.

St. Luke's launched its nonprofit PX Project in 2020, which offers a workforce development kitchen to young people in the Gulfton and Sharpstown area between the ages of 16-24. The program will also be housed at the new community center, which will provide students access to a commercial kitchen, classrooms, counseling spaces and a new cafe.

Through a partnership with Small Steps Nurturing Center, St. Luke's also plans to have no-tuition early childhood education services available on-site for economically at-risk children ages 2-3.

Lastly, the social services networking nonprofit Connect Community will be headquartered at the center, according to the release.

The area where the center is being built was targeted because of the opportunity to help youth in one of Houston's most diverse communities, PX Project's Executive Director Meredith Davis said.

“This youth-driven community space will give us partner organizations the opportunity to work side by side with young people and each other,” she said in a statement. “Knowing the young people of Gulfton/Sharpstown will have a safe space that they can see is about and for them is of highest importance.”

Jackson & Ryan Architects is the architectural firm on the project, while W.S. Bellows Construction Corp. is the building contractor.

Moving forward, St. Luke's officials said they are turning to community and family foundations with other grant applications to raise the rest of the funds. More information on how to donate can be found here.