By Scott Faingold
Few would disagree that the 55-year old YMCA building at the corner of Fourth Street and Cook in Springfield has seen better days. Addressing this, a plan was unveiled at a well-attended March 13 meeting of the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association at Third Presbyterian Church to replace the old facility with a new central city YMCA at Fourth and Carpenter, in the heart of the medical district, on land donated by Memorial Medical Center. Memorial has also pledged $8 million toward the cost of the project. According to the developers, the new facility will be similar to, but larger than, the popular, state of the art Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA, which opened in 2011 on the west side of Springfield.
Paul Wheeler, architect with Springfield’s FWAI Architects Inc., is in charge of the project and sees it in part as a way to refocus the image of the medical district. “Everybody views hospitals as places you go when you’re sick, but the thought here is to promote wellness,” he said, stressing that the evening’s presentation was in its preliminary stages. “We want an address along Carpenter Street, but that’s not necessarily where the front door is going to end up.”
To this end, the current plan is to put the parking at the back of the site, with an attractive, modern façade visible to Carpenter Street passersby both in cars and on foot. “We thought that was something we could really animate on the street,” Wheeler said. “Big picture windows so you can see people exercising, lit up at night – it’s a real opportunity to do something really nice on that corner.”
The initial plan will place the entrance at the back of the building, with a youth center directly off of the parking lot where buses will load and unload and parents can drop off their children in the morning. There will also be a multipurpose room placed right at the front which is intended to be utilized by the Y as well as other community members for events.
After members check in at the front, they will follow a hallway through the middle of the building which feeds to all of the ground-level features, including the U.S. short-course qualified swimming pool and two-level fitness center. The facility will offer a sauna and steam room for men and women as well as two racquetball courts.
Joe Hurwitz of Hurwitz Enterprises, developer of the new YMCA project, said that the new facility will be approximately 40 percent larger than the west side facility. He anticipates the project will happen very quickly, with construction expected to begin in fall of 2018 and last 15 months. “We think this is a game-changer for the quality of life,” said Hurwitz, “not only for the current residents but the future residents of Enos Park.”
When asked about the new facility’s eco-friendliness, Wheeler explained that current building and energy codes have caught up with the green movement. “We have very stringent energy codes we are going to have to meet,” he said. “If we can exceed them and it doesn’t take away from services to the community, we absolutely will – but if it affects the size of the courts or pool to put in further green initiatives, we’re going to have to make a decision in favor of membership services. We will not be pursuing LEED accreditation.”
As for the actual construction work required for the new building, Hurwitz said that the project will be bid locally but that he was unable to promise that every contractor would be from the area. “We’re going to take the lowest qualified bid – we will put together a team that will complete this job on time and at budget and we anticipate a significant percentage to be local.” He added that the work will be at prevailing wage and therefore likely union. “There are probably no non-union contractors that can handle this size of work on the schedule dictated.” He said the final cost of the new Y can be expected to exceed $20 million.