MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Renovations are breathing new life into the oldest community center in Memphis and providing a positive environment for families.

That’s the goal of a $4 million renovation project that kicked off Monday at Gaston Community Center on South Third Street.

The project is being funded through “Accelerate Memphis,” a program aimed at improving the quality of life in Memphis neighborhoods.

It’s not your traditional ground breaking ceremony, more of a “wall bashing”, to kickoff restoration of the Gaston Community Center in South Memphis.

Since 1934, this has been an important gathering spot for families.

“It’s very important to our community. Like, everybody from around here thrives off of being here. Without it we probably wouldn’t even have a community,” De’Andrew Thomas said, who lives near the Gaston Community Center.

The $4 million project, made possible through Accelerate Memphis, will give the main entrance a facelift, create a new lobby, community meeting rooms, and upgrade restrooms.

Pieces of plywood, now covering practically all the gym’s exterior, will be replaced with new windows to allow in plenty of daylight.

“It will be restored…I think…close to its original beauty which will match the beauty of the children and the adults who use it,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.

Designs for the new Gaston Community Center

It will become a modern community center. Complimenting Gaston Park, the Gaston Park Library is on the same property. Most importantly, it will give youngsters a positive after school environment through an organization called ‘Knowledge Quest.”

“It’s for students pre-k all the way through 12th grade where they’re involved in what we call “adventure education” where we take learning concepts from school and apply them in a “hands on” way,” Marlon Foster, Founder of Knowledge Quest said.

De’Andrew Thomas is excited about renovations to Gaston Community Center, and how this gym will echo with basketball, excitement and positive programs for young people.

“It plays a major part in taking the kids from being outside to give them something productive to do. It’s like I said…this gym is more than a gym…it’s a part of our culture…it’s a part of South Memphis…part of our upbringing,” Thomas said.

The Gaston Community Center renovation project is scheduled to start on May 16 and be completed in the Fall of 2023.