September 7, 2016

Step One of YMCA Project Nears Completion

The Princeton Family YMCA on Paul Robeson Place is just six weeks away from completing the first step in a three-part “refresh” project designed to brighten up several key facets of their facility, to use their space to the greatest advantage, and to bring the building into the 21st century. 

Scheduled for opening in time for their October 27 Centennial Awards Event, step one construction, at the entrance to the YMCA’s Athletic Building, will include extensive modernization of the lobby area, the child watch area, offices, and the women’s locker room, with updated heating and cooling facilities.

The second step, slated for early next year, will provide much-needed space for the martial arts and fencing programs by removing walls, adding windows, and putting in a new floor to create two levels in what used to be a racquetball court. And for the third step, by the end of next summer, the YMCA will be upgrading its pool, which is in solid condition, but needs updating with new lighting, new windows, and a dehumidifier.

Designed by Schmitt Anderson Architects of Metuchen, the construction work is being carried out by V.J. Scozzari & Sons of Pennington.

“We’re long overdue,” said YMCA head Kate Bech. She explained the need to renovate the facility so that “folks can feel proud of this Y, proud of their community. We want to have a facility that everyone wants to belong to. You have to invest in a building to make that happen. We know that the building has been benignly neglected for a long time.”

Constructed in 1958 and renovated in the early 1970s, the Athletic Building saw no facilities upgrades in the ensuing 40 years, until three years ago, its first “shot in the arm,” according to Ms. Bech, came in the form of renovations to its Fitzpatrick Wellness Center, which was transformed with new equipment and a new design into an up-to-date, family-oriented workout center.

About a year ago the YMCA Board agreed that the building was long overdue for renovation and committed to the three-step refresh effort. Financing for the project, estimated at $1.2 to $1.3 million, is so far taking place through private donations, with about $540,000 raised, largely through contributions from Board members themselves.

Ms. Bech emphasized that the three-step process ensures that the construction work will not interrupt any operations at the YMCA, which welcomes more than 7000 members and visitors each year.

The current refresh project is part of the Y’s continuing strategic planning. Ms. Bech stated that they will be seeking out conversations with the community during the coming year, especially in the areas of youth, health, and wellness. “By sounding out the community, we can be part of the solution to its problems and needs.”

This YMCA project follows a reorganization initiative announced last February in conjunction with the YWCA, which will continue to work with the YMCA on certain programs. At that time the two organizations agreed that in order “to lessen confusion in the community” and to give each organization greater independence to manage its facilities and programs, the YWCA would run services from the Program Building and the Bramwell House, while the YMCA would operate entirely from the Athletic Building.

The Princeton Family YMCA, as of September 1, is providing all sports programs, including martial arts, as well as aquatics and summer day camp programs, and will also continue to provide Childwatch services for members and all programs that operate off the site, such as after school and Princeton Young Achievers programs.

The YWCA will continue to run the childcare and bilingual nursery school, the Newcomers and Friends Club, robotics, the Breast Cancer Resource Center, dance, English as a Second Language, and the High School Equivalency Training Center.

“One of the beauties of the YMCA is that it serves as a connection between people in the community,” Ms. Bech said. “We feel strongly that by making these improvements we will have more people joining us. These are people who might otherwise not meet each other. Relationships are forged that strengthen the foundation of our community. Everything happens at the speed of a relationship, and this place helps to forge those relationships.”