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Bangor Daily News (Maine)
BLUE HILL, Maine — What began as a supermarket cashiers' exercise room will become a $3.5 million community center serving a dozen towns on the Blue Hill Peninsula.
Owned by Tradewinds Marketplace owners Chuck and Belinda Lawrence, the 13,000-square-foot new building will be managed by the Down East Family YMCA group. It will effectively double the size of the adjacent Blue Hill YMCA on South Street and include a six-lane pool, Belinda Lawrence said.
"This will be another draw for the area," Lawrence said Wednesday. "We've heard from people that others would move here if there were more [amenities]."
The pool will give peninsula residents — including swim team members at George Stevens Academy — a new place to swim, said Blue Hill resident Ciona Ulbrich, a regular Y client. The closest YMCAs, in Ellsworth and Bucksport, are 12 and 21 miles from Blue Hill, respectively.
"This is a community that has a number of residential facilities for older people, and I think that offering them swimming is great," said Ulbrich, who recently opened a coffee shop downtown, Sandy's Blue Hill Cafe. "That's a big change from what's here."
"Just the sheer size of the place will make a big difference," Ulbrich added. "At times, particularly in the summer months, this place gets very crowded."
The new YMCA-managed facility will be built on two acres of wetlands adjacent to the old building, which will become a daycare center, Belinda Lawrence said.
It will feature expanded exercise rooms, offices and dance training space. Construction will start early next month, although trees and other foliage have already been removed from the site, Belinda Lawrence said.
The Lawrences, who have owned their Tradewinds store for 18 years, formed the non-profit Lawrence Family Foundation to administer the construction of the building and other gifts to the community, Belinda Lawrence said.
They donated the former supermarket garage to the YMCA in 2013. The Lawrences created the exercise room for their sales associates, but there wasn't much interest in using it, Lawrence said.
As part of the deal, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection required the Lawrences to offset the loss of the wetlands they are building on. The Lawrences purchased wetlands in Surry and donated them to the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, Lawrence said.
Their own land was the last they looked at. It was surprisingly difficult to find enough acreage off a main road in the area with a sewer hookup that wasn't wetlands but was large enough for the center, Lawrence said.
Construction will likely finish in a year, Lawrence said.
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