By Lenore T. Adkins, Special to the AFRO

Patty Robertson lives just two blocks away from the new Marvin Gaye Recreation Center in Ward 7 and she predicts it’ll become a second home of sorts. She’ll be bringing her niece and three grandchildren there often to enjoy the playground, learn arts and crafts, play games and use the computers.

The recreation center also offers an opportunity for Robertson to embark upon a healthier lifestyle. She’s looking forward to sweating it out in the fitness center and taking advantage of the teaching kitchen. “I know how to cook basic stuff – I want to do healthy cooking,” Robertson, 52, told the AFRO, noting that she still cooks things in “grease.”

Antwaun Gay, Marvin Gaye’s brother, stands in front of the recreation center during the opening ceremony. The famous singer added an “e” to his name later in life thus having a different spelling of “Gaye” than his brother and family. (Photo by Lenore Adkins)

On May 5, D.C. officials cut the ribbon on the $14 million recreation center named after the Motown legend who grew up in the District and attended Cardozo High School. More than 1,000 people reserved their places for the event that felt like a block party and had people grooving and singing along to some of Gaye’s greatest hits.

The two-story, environmentally friendly building boasts a music room, gallery space, tech lounge, a senior room with a floating balcony overlooking the Watts Branch and a community room. The grounds around the 72,000 square-foot building include a community garden, a basketball court and practice fields.

The building replaces the small, one-story Watts Branch Recreation Center.

Antwaun Gay, the singer’s youngest brother, told the AFRO he’s thrilled to see the building come to fruition. Plans were in the works for at least a decade. “It’s a perfect spot and I’m just glad it’s here in the community,” said Gay, now living in Fredericksburg, Va. “I just wish that he was here to see it, but it’s here.”

The building is awash in local art. Its exterior offers a stenciled portrait of Gaye from Jamel Williams, a graduate of Howard University’s School of Architecture.

You’ll find the singer’s visage inside the center too. Interior glass artist Shaunté Gates grew up in Southeast D.C., graduated from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and depicts Gaye in various stages of his musical career through etchings he created on the center’s glass walls.

A 6’-5” statue of Gaye is currently being bronzed, said Vinnie Bagwell, the New York-based sculpture artist who created the statue. She used the singer’s image from “What’s Going On” the socially conscious album the singer cut after his older brother Frankie’s return from the Vietnam War.

“That’s the quintessential Marvin Gaye album. It’s considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time,” Bagwell told the AFRO.

Bagwell said the statue should be ready to go before June. Vincent Gray, the Ward 7 council member, can’t wait until the statue is ready to go up. “I hope that we’re going to have an event to be able to actually dedicate the statue of Marvin Gaye right here in his own neighborhood so we that can say ‘Marvin Gaye, you will always be a part of the landscape in the Northeast section of the District of Columbia.’”