Our Towns

Rotary Gets Preview of Renovated Central YMCA

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The newly completed renovation of the YMCA of Youngstown’s Central Branch is squarely aimed at the growing downtown residential and business community, the branch’s executive director, Mike Shaffer says.

The Youngstown YMCA officially unveils its $5 million renovation at a press event today. Shaffer offered a preview Wednesday for members of the Rotary Club of Youngstown. The service club regularly holds its weekly meetings at the Central YMCA’s Manchester Room, and the Lions and Kiwanis clubs meet at the Y as well.

“We’re the service club hub of the community and we love being that,” Shaffer told Rotarians. “Our work is very symbiotic.”

Several years ago, the Youngstown YMCA’s board engaged its board members and engineers to study the Central Branch to determine whether they should abandon it and build elsewhere downtown, “as most of the other Rust Belt cities have done,” he said.

Instead, board members determined that if they could secure the resources to remodel and update the building, it was worth preserving. “I’m really glad that’s what the board decided,” Shaffer said.

The renovation opened both the exterior and the interior of the 100-year-old building, creating “spacious, wide-open areas to house excellent new equipment,” he said. The renovation also addressed long-standing ventilation issues in the structure and provided central air and heating for the first time.

Shaffer acknowledged that many longtime members didn’t want the Central Branch to change at all, and even threatened to resign their memberships and go elsewhere. However, the purpose of the renovation is to keep the branch “relevant and vibrant for the next 25 years,” he remarked.

“We aimed this renovation at young people,” Shaffer said. “We aimed it at people who are moving into the city and making downtown their home. What a wonderful way for us to partner with folks as this change happens in our city.”

In particular, Shaffer said the YMCA is targeting people like Deanna Marchionda. A branch office manager with TransAmerica Financial Advisors Inc., she and her children moved downtown three years ago. Before the renovation, Marchionda says she only came to the branch to bring her kids there but since the renovation she comes for herself. She now takes spinning classes and works out regularly.

“It’s a place that you want to be,” she said. “They did a quality job.”

The architect, Strollo Associates, and general contractor, Alex Downie & Sons, incorporated historical features into the renovation. Among the discoveries uncovered when workers chipped away at the linoleum on the second floor was a glass skylight above what had been the main entrance. The skylight was left exposed and now is visible.

Shaffer noted the project employed union labor and as much of the new equipment as possible was purchased locally.

Scott Schulick, vice president of Stifel Financial Advisors and a member of the downtown YMCA for 10 years, says he’s impressed with the results of the renovation. “It’s great on a number of levels,” he remarked. Members are reacting positively to it “but more importantly it shows the Y’s commitment to downtown and improving this property as a destination point for lots of people who come from outside of downtown,” he said.

As part of the renovation, Sandy’s Café & Catering relocated from the building’s second floor to the ground level, a move that resulted in more business.

“A lot of people didn’t know that we existed because we were up on the second floor,” said Sandy Triveri, who with Steve Sheronovich operates the café. “Now that we’re on the first floor, we’re more visible and that, of course, brings in more business.”

Sheronovich estimated that business is up 10% since the move.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.