Tube City Almanac

October 05, 2011

ACTION Eyes $6M Upgrade of Old YMCA

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The city's former YMCA could receive a $6 million makeover as part of a plan to provide low-cost housing.

At Tuesday's council work session, Pat Fenton, deputy executive director of ACTION-Housing, said the building is "structurally sound" but badly in need of infrastructure improvements.

Financial difficulties forced the YMCA of McKeesport into a merger with the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh. Fitness facilities in the old YMCA --- located on Sinclair Street --- closed to the public in June 2009.

The McKeesport Y has since opened a new fitness and exercise center on Evans Avenue, across the street from UPMC McKeesport Hospital, though the site lacks the swimming pool at the Sinclair Street facility. A portion of the fitness facilities at Sinclair Street are currently rented to the McKeesport Police Department's athletic club.

. . .

Besides the pool and fitness center at Sinclair Street, the YMCA also maintained 89 so-called "sleeping rooms" --- essentially small hotel rooms, with shared bathrooms --- for the poor and indigent.

ACTION-Housing, which also operates the 62-unit Versailles-Archer Apartments, the White Street Apartments and a set of townhouses on Spring Street in the city, took over management of the YMCA's residences in October 2010.

The non-profit corporation was asked to assume that responsibility by the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, which was afraid that the 89 people living in the building would be thrown into the street when it closed, Fenton said.

ACTION-Housing has already installed security cameras throughout the building and begun performing criminal background and credit checks on all prospective tenants, he said. About $75,000 has been invested so far to "stabilize" the building, Fenton said.

. . .

Under a proposal --- which Fenton cautioned has yet to receive funding --- new wiring and plumbing would be installed, along with an elevator, and the heating and ventilation systems would be replaced with a geothermal unit to cut energy consumption.

The roof and windows also need to be replaced, he said.

"The building is structurally sound, but all of the systems need to be replaced," Fenton said.

. . .

The number of apartments in the old YMCA would be reduced to 85, and the building --- which is currently tax-exempt --- would be returned to the tax rolls, Fenton said. Returning the 1922-vintage structure to the tax rolls is necessary in order for ACTION-Housing to arrange the financing it needs, which will include a package of tax credits.

The swimming pool would remain in place, but would be "mothballed," while the first floor would be renovated for use by community service providers.

Residents will be required to pay rent, though the apartments are income-restricted. "Some of the people living there are having a hard time, but our goal is to move them to self-sufficiency," he said.

The outside of the building would also receive improvements, including additional plantings designed to spruce up the Sinclair Street corridor.

. . .

Besides its mission to continue providing room for people who might otherwise be homeless, ACTION-Housing is motivated in part by a desire to preserve the old YMCA.

"People keep telling us, 'You have to save this building, it's been here forever,'" Fenton told council.

"We're already involved in the community," he said. "We're excited about (the Y project) and think it's a good opportunity."

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Feedback on “ACTION Eyes $6M Upgrade of Old YMCA”

That’s great news! If we want to protect important buildings in town, we must find ways to keep them in use.
John M. - October 05, 2011

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