WILMINGTON -- More than three years after a devastating fire, construction fencing still obstructs the view of the Wilmington Family YMCA for anyone zooming by on Market Street.
From outside the barrier, it would seem as though no work has been done on the community mecca. But stepping inside the fencing gives another point of view, one the shows a major work in progress that -- from blueprints to the construction -- is envisioned as a more functional, intentional meeting place for its patient members.
As Dick Jones, president and CEO of Wilmington Family YMCA, walked around the still-active construction site this week, he acknowledged the instigator for the remodel wasn’t ideal, but the final product will be worth the effort.
“There is a silver lining to this cloud,” he said. “We have had to work hard to get here, but the finish line is in sight. The changes that we have been able to make will allow us to serve more people, more programs for the community.”
The complete redesign of the building, which will be known as the Nir Family YMCA, is operating on a $9.5 million budget -- $5.7 million of which has been raised through community fundraising.
With construction about to hit the one-year mark, that finish line is approaching quickly. The building, which has been completely gutted in places with new rooms built in others, is by no means finished.
But with the building expected to be handed back over to YMCA staff in November and with a December opening being eyed, the clock is ticking. Here is what the YMCA has cooked up for the new renovation:
The YMCA previously had its main entry point off Market Street, but with the new design and promise of big changes to the busy corridor, Jones said the property will now have a second entrance on 29th Street.
“This is very intentional,” he said. “Market Street is becoming divided and will change access to the Y in time, so we wanted both accesses.”
At the cross section of the two access points will be a new, 14-foot-tall glass entrance that gives a clear picture of the intention behind the renovation.
“The building itself is much brighter, with an open-air design and a lot of light coming in,” Jones said. “We have used this opportunity to, while keeping the same four walls, recreate the inside of every space.”
Jones said the previous YMCA only lived in about 75 percent of its square footage. This won’t be the case with the new design and layout, which will fill about 90-95 percent of the building and property with activities and programs.
“Before you were in a maze, with a corridor here and a closest there,” Jones said. “Now everything is open, visible and easy to access, but it has provided a lot more focus on program space and efficient utilization of the space.”
While the past YMCA saw adults arriving to work out mix and mingle – often to their dismay with children pouring off school buses, Jones said the new design separate the two groups and gives them their own spaces.
The new entrance will be separate from the bus drop-off and have direct access to the changing rooms (10 private rooms have been added) and lockers, and lead up to the second floor where more spacious rooms have been designed for everything from yoga to cardio to rowing to regular workouts.
“We had exercises classes so big they had to be moved to the gym,” said marketing director Sarah Gibbs. “Now we can use the gym for what it is supposed to be used for.”
The newly conceived Youth Wing will feature classrooms, a cooking class space and a new outdoor playground.
A new multi-function indoor pool is also being imagined from one of the existing lap pools, the other of which will remain open. It will contain a splash pad-type area for kids, as well as different depths to accommodate activities like swim lessons and water aerobics.
Although they have their own wing, kids won’t be absent from the new main entrance. A 14-foot climbing structure will greet visitors, inviting kids to climb until to their hearts content -- or their parents are ready to leave.
Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com.