YMCA renovation still has September target

The hiatus in work at the YMCA of Greenwich appears to be at an end with construction resumed and a September target date for much of the renovated facility to be reopened.

Earlier this year private donations and a new multi-million dollar loan helped right the fiscal ship at the iconic Greenwich organization, and construction, which had been left in a holding pattern for years due to funding concerns and litigation, finally resumed. And now the second phase of the YMCA’s renovation, which included the Olympic-sized swimming pool, can finally be completed, something now being celebrated by staff and users.

“This is a very exciting time,” Dale Lucian, the YMCA’s interim chief operating officer told the Post. “When I first got here it was three and a half years ago and we were deep into the construction but when we looked at the financial statements we knew we had to stop things for a while. But it’s been three years since July and to see things going like this again is just tremendous. It took a lot of work and a lot of meetings to get to this point.”

Ms. Lucian and Tim Wagner, the YMCA’s facilities director, led local media on a tour of the construction last week, showing what they believe will soon be fully operational as the renovation of the building, which was originally built in 1916, nears its completion. The list of areas still under construction include second floor meeting rooms and third floor offices, which will free additional space currently being used by YMCA staff on the second floor.

Much of the facility is slated to be done by the end of September. Given the nature of construction, delays, even if only a few days, would seem inevitable. However, after years of waiting and things going full blast now, the YMCA said it has every expectation that they are on target.

“We’re not anticipating any difficulties at this point,” Mr. Wagner said. “We had a lot of surprises earlier on, though, but now we are well on our way to our Sept. 30 target date. When you say that of course it’s like you’re tempting fate and something crazy will happen next week, but we don’t anticipate anything happening to get us off that target.”

Exercise rooms on the second floor have already been completed and are in use. Mr. Wagner said that once the meeting rooms are finished the YMCA will once again be able to have space for events like Retired Men’s Association meetings that the building used to host. There will also be computer rooms and new courtyards inside the building. There will be new elevators, which Mr. Wagner said will make the building far easier for seniors to utilize.

Not everything is being changed, though, as the historic YMCA gym, which is still used frequently for basketball games, will remain fully functional. The track that goes around the gym will also be retained along with stretching areas.

“We’re going to use every nook and cranny of the new building,” Mr. Wagner said.

The new meeting rooms can host a variety of events, according to YMCA officials. The space can be used either as one giant room or have a partition put in place to divide it. Once those are completed, the meeting rooms will be able to be rented out as a revenue source.

“We get calls all the time to see if we have space, and soon we’ll be able to accommodate that,” Ms. Lucian said. “Just today we got a call where someone is having a birthday party at their house and it’s raining outside. They’ll be able to use this space. It can be used for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs or for bridal showers or for big meetings or receptions. We can’t accommodate 200 people now, but when this is done we can. It’s a good money generator.”

The infamous temporary staircase that was constructed outside of the building and served as a symbol of the paralyzed construction project will soon be a thing of the past. Once the elevators are functional and accessibility issues resolved, the staircase, which Ms. Lucian referred to as “an eyesore,” can be taken down.

Beyond September there are additional features that will still need work, including the original 1916 pool, which will be able to be used again as a complement to the Olympic-sized pool. Mr. Wagner said that funds still have to be secured for that project but once it’s done, the original pool will be a “warm water pool,” a feature most Ys offer. Those pools are typically used for younger children and seniors because they prefer a warmer water temperature than that in the Olympic-sized pool, which is used for competitive sports.

“To keep everyone happy you really need to have both,” Mr. Wagner said. “The seniors have the warm water pool for their aquacize classes and for little children learning how to swim. And the main pool will have the cooler temperatures for our competitors to be able to work out in.”

The plan is for the renovated pool to retain the original historic tilework on the walls of the room, which includes a 1916 YMCA logo. That area will also have three new nearby child care centers.

Full childcare programs will not be available in time for this fall because the September target date is after school will have started. Since families have to make plans in advance it was thought unwise to try and rush it. Instead it’s anticipated that a full slate of programs will be offered in the second semester starting in January.

The lobby of the YMCA will also be part of the final stages of the renovation and plastic sheeting is already in place for what will be a completely new flow of foot traffic in the building. The historic entrance off Putnam Avenue will remain, even though it is temporarily closed, but in the new scenario there will be a new entrance, since members will likely either be parking on Mason Street or using the facility’s parking structure. Traffic will flow from that entrance around the building.

Major progress is expected when the building closes for one week, as it typically does, in August for cleaning of the lockers and other “housekeeping” that can’t be done when there are members using the facility. This is something most Ys do and in other facilities the closure is for two weeks, not one as it is here. Mr. Wagner said this time would “absolutely” give a boost to the construction, as items like door replacement to the gymnasium can be accomplished far more easier with no one using the facility.

“We targeted items that would affect the membership to happen during our shutdown week,” Ms. Wagner said, adding that the facility would be closed from Aug. 11 until Aug. 20, covering two weekends and a full work week. “Construction will be taking place and staff will be working both weekends and the whole week so we can maximize the work we can get done.”

The Aug. 20 date will also be significant since it will be the day the YMCA formally welcomes its new CEO, Edward Philipp.

 

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