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YMCA Facilities to Get Multimillion-Dollar Upgrades

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Christine Robinson has her family family, her work family, her church family and her YMCA family.

"I feel like I have another home here," Robinson said last week as she worked out on the Cybex Arc Trainer at the Northside Family Y in Richmond. She is there four times a week and has been going since 2003, she said.

Over the years, she's met a lot of new people at the Y.

But one thing that hasn't changed much is the facility itself. There have been some cosmetic updates, but nothing like the changes that are on the horizon.

The Northside, Petersburg and Manchester Ys are slated to get millions of dollars in renovations and improvements. Work has begun on the Petersburg Y and is about to begin on the Northside facility. Work on the Manchester Y is still in planning stages and about a year away from starting.

The renovations are part of $15 million in improvements the YMCA of Greater Richmond has planned for the three older facilities and part of a larger five-year, $40 million comprehensive campaign to support capital improvements, community impact and endowment.

The Petersburg Y kicked off renovations with a groundbreaking two weeks ago. Groundbreaking for the Northside Y renovations is Feb. 13.

"The goal is to continue to expand our investment in the work we do with youth and seniors and the health and well-being work we do with members and the community," said Chris Hughes, vice president of business operations for the YMCA of Greater Richmond.

"There will be expanded programming, definitely group exercise, now that we will have the space at both places to do more. Not all of that has been finalized at this point, but people can expect to see some additional programming."

The facilities, Hughes said, "already are assets to the community but will be things that people can be proud of."

Work on both facilities is expected to be completed by December. The facilities will remain open during the renovations. Henrico County-based construction management company KBS Inc. is handling construction at both the Northside and Petersburg locations.

"We've functioned in this space, but in terms of what we really want to accomplish and what's possible, it's been past time to renovate," said Theresa Johnson, executive director of the Northside Y for the past five years.

***

The Petersburg Y, which has been at 120 N. Madison St. since 1970, will get more than $6 million in upgrades, and go from about 39,200 square feet to 49,000 square feet, with part of that additional space on a new second level. Architectural renderings show a new façade with large glass windows on the front.

"We are trying to build and give the community a facility that they deserve," said Marco Callender, Petersburg Y executive director since March 2017. He was formerly at the Chester Y.

The wellness center with exercise equipment will be larger and move to the second level with greater accessibility to the facility's indoor track, Hughes explained.

An elevator will be installed for those unable to take the stairs to the second level, Callender said. There will be space for a teaching kitchen, he said.

"What I envision this branch is to be not just a community center but the center of the community, to change around the words a little bit," Callender said. "At community centers, kids come and go. What we are building here is a place where kids come and grow."

***

The Northside Y, located at 4207 Old Brook Road in North Richmond since 1974, is getting about $5 million in renovations. The 36,973-square-foot facility will get an additional 2,605 square feet, bringing it to 39,578 square feet.

The interior is being almost completely reconfigured.

"We are increasing the space at both facilities around the group exercise studios, so we are adding an additional group exercise studio at both spaces. The flow and function of these spaces are becoming easier and better for our members to come in and out of," Hughes said.

In the Northside Y's new configuration, the wellness center, with exercise machines and weight equipment, will double in size - from 2,195 square feet to 4,310 square feet - and relocate to an area now used for preschool and child care. The teen center will move to the wellness center space. The teen space becomes the area for child care, preschool and summer day camp. The swimming pool and gym, with basketball court, stay put.

The additional space to the Northside Y primarily will be for more lobby space and for the Y's child watch program. At both the Petersburg and Northside Ys, the child watch space will become larger and activities more program-driven.

"The exterior of (the Northside) building will get updated so that as people drive down the road, they will see a new face-lift, though they won't be able to see the front door," Hughes said.

The Northside Y's front faces a parking lot and John Marshall High School, which is across the parking lot from the Y.

At Northside, family locker rooms with access to the pool will be added, something already available at the Petersburg location.

Robinson was excited to hear about the new locker rooms. She comes to the Y directly from work.

"That is definitely needed. That is way long overdue," she said.

She also was glad to hear that the stretching area, now located in a corner of the wellness/fitness center, will become larger.

"It's kind of tight over there sometime," Robinson said.

***

The nonprofit YMCA of Greater Richmond has 17 area locations, including Camp Thunderbird in Chesterfield County,

It is closing its facility in the James Center, where it has been since 2005, because the lease ended. The Y is relocating those operations to the nearby SunTrust Center. That new facility, to be called the 10th Street YMCA, should be ready in April.

The fundraising to cover the renovation costs of the Northside, Petersburg and Manchester Ys is ongoing.

"We are still raising some of the money," said Charlotte Dean, YMCA spokeswoman. "We are still looking for donor and community support. But we have enough funds to move forward."

Some major donations have come from corporations.

In January 2017, the Dominion Foundation, the charitable arm of Richmond-based energy giant Dominion Energy, gave $500,000 to the YMCA of Greater Richmond to support the Northside, Petersburg and Manchester Ys.

TowneBank in 2016 donated $500,000 to the YMCA of Greater Richmond to help fund efforts to revitalize urban Y facilities.

According to the local YMCA's federal tax filings, the organization in 2016 served 177,154 people and had 78,551 members. More than $3.5 million was used to help people who might not otherwise be able to afford memberships.

As a nonprofit, the YMCA is mission-minded, but like any operation, it has to sustain itself financially. The organization's revenue for calendar year 2016, the latest available, was approximately $45.6 million, up about $4.4 million from 2015. The biggest sources of revenue were membership fees of $23.7 million and program fees of $12.7 million.

In recent years, there has been a national movement among many Ys to focus on being more than just a place to go to the gym or to the pool, said Dr. Danny Avula, a board member of the YMCA of Greater Richmond and director of the Richmond public health department.

Under the leadership of CEO Tim Joyce, who came to Richmond in 2013, there has been a shift to focus on the Y's more traditional mission, Avula said. The Ys last year cut membership rates to make the facilities more affordable to more people.

"The Y's history has always been moving into communities and helping to grow and develop people and to connect with deep social needs that communities may be facing," Avula said.

"The last two years for the Greater Richmond YMCA has been going back to its roots, an organization that is deeply concerned with issues of justice and equity," he said. "So that is what we have seen played out in the Richmond region with an investment in communities like your refugees who are being resettled in Henrico. I think of the Tuckahoe Y as a great example of a place that has become a home base for many different people from all over the world who have settled in the western part of Henrico County.

"Now the Y is a community hub."

The investment in the Northside and Petersburg Y facilities, Avula said, is an investment in creating spaces that are gathering spaces for people of all ages and that foster community connections. After-school programs address youth development. Programs for senior address the risk of older adults being socially isolated.

"I know so many folks who are in their 70s and beyond who go to the Y everyday just so they can meet and talk to people," Avula said.

"On the youth development end, this is where the Y, again, is going back to its roots and thinking more broadly about what health is," he said. "Developing leadership capacity and creating safe and nurturing spaces for middle and high school students has huge implications for whether they make it through high school or do they feel like they have a safe community to go to."

TLSmith@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6572

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January 27, 2018
 
 
 

 

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