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Staff photo by Emily Crisman / Miniature shovels are displayed under a rendering of Young Life's new Chattanooga venue, the organization's first of its kind in the nation, during a groundbreaking ceremony held Feb. 12, 2020.

Young Life, an international Christian organization focused on teens and young adults, is building a large-scale venue in Chattanooga.

It will be the first of its kind for the organization nationwide.

Designed by Bob Franklin and Lauren Dunn of local firm Franklin Architects, the 4,200-square-foot building will be a mixture of an old-fashioned soda fountain and a modern-day coffee shop on the first floor, with offices and gathering spaces upstairs. It will have an indoor-outdoor feel with pickleball and basketball courts in the back, said Young Life Metro Director of Chattanooga David Haskins.

"It's going to be a place to gather, a place where people can come to experience the hospitality of Young Life," he said. "We think it's going to be used a pretty good bit."

The location near the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was strategically chosen to give the organization more exposure among college students, he said.

Haskins said they plan to staff the center with current or former participants of Young Life's Capernaum ministry serving kids with disabilities.

Mike Berry of local Berry Construction is building the center, which is expected to be complete by Aug. 15.

"My hope is that it will be successful enough for Young Life to consider what it would look like to build similar venues in other places," said Haskins.

Established in Dallas, Texas, in 1941 by Presbyterian minister Jim Rayburn, Young Life has a mission of introducing adolescents to Jesus Christ and helping them grow in their faith, according to its website.

The organization operates in more than 100 countries, and more than 348,000 kids are involved on a weekly basis, Haskins said.

The new venue will be located at 757 E. M.L. King Blvd.

Email Emily Crisman at ecrisman@timesfreepress.com.

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