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Porterdale breaks ground on gym rebuild
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Porterdale history began a renewal Saturday.

More than a dozen members of Porterdale's government, the organization Friends of Porterdale and Garbutt Construction gathered for the groundbreaking of the Porterdale Gym reconstruction.

The 74-year-old structure is being re-envisioned and repurposed into a new adaptive-use project, using the four walls as a shell for a venue inside an enclosed courtyard to be used for different venues, such as weddings, receptions, picnics, reunions and concerts. The project's $950,000 cost is being paid for entirely by proceeds from SPLOST.

Saturday, Charlie Garbutt, president of Garbutt Construction, which is working on the project, gathered with members of the Porterdale community to begin the removal of debris and fortification of the walls, which is expected to be completed around May.

"We are excited to be on board for the revitalization of this local historic landmark with the city of Porterdale and its community," Garbutt said.
The repurposing of the building is needed after a fire destroyed the Porterdale Gymnasium on Oct. 20, 2005.

The blaze caused the ceiling and part of the walls to collapse, and left Porterdale with a choice to repurpose, tear it down or spend approximately $4.1 million to rebuild the structure into a gymnasium.

The end result seemed to be a no-brainer to the Porterdale decision makers, who didn't have the millions available to rebuild the gym but also didn't want to lose a piece of history, iterated by mayor Arline Chapman prior to Saturday's groundbreaking.

In a speech before the shovels were wielded, Chapman told of when she was newer to the area, she drove around looking for all the landmarks she saw of the city in pictures online. However, she couldn't complete her tour after looking for two historic schools.

"(I was told) they tore it down and that just breaks my heart," Chapman told the gathered crowd. "So we're not tearing down any more of your precious buildings.
"I see a lot of you here today who remember this gym when it was in its heyday and it touches my heart to see you here and know we are fulfilling this dream."

The city will not only be able to continue to see its building rising above Porterdale, but also use it for all the community's special occasions in the future.

"The folks who grew up here are happy that something is going to happen," Bob Thomson, Porterdale city manager told The Covington News in December.
"It was considered the heart of the community. It was the focus of the community with Christmas concerts, basketball games and you name it. A lot of the children's lives revolved around the gym."