YMCA Renovation Reveals Surprises for Contractors

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO – The $5 million renovation of the YMCA of Youngstown’s Central Branch is revealing a few surprises.

In one section of the 100-year-old building, the former northern exterior brick wall of the building was hidden behind drywall, said the YMCA’s executive director, Timothy Hilk. Demolition of a wall in another area exposed sections of a long-forgotten staircase.

“We did extensive investigation to try to flush out all these things. But until you actually open up the existing conditions, you don’t know for sure exactly what you’re going to find,” remarked Tom Downie, treasurer of Alex Downie & Sons, the $5 million project’s general contractor.

“All kinds of debris was on top of it,” Downie continued. “We had to clean it off to see what was there.”

The project, slated for completion in late December, is still in the demolition phase, said Mike Shaffer, Central Branch director.

“This is being opened up from the outside in and the inside out,” he said. “It’s often confusing for somebody brand new to the Y to navigate our hallways and stairways, and that’s going to be greatly simplified.”

The goal is to take advantage of as many parts of the building’s history as possible while redesigning it for contemporary use, Hilk said.

“We’ll take advantage of utilizing this brick,” he said, referring to the now-exposed former exterior wall. “This was exposed in Youngstown for 55 years. Maybe it carries a bit of the historic significance of Youngstown, the steel-making dust and so on.”

Among the planned upgrades are to the water and wastewater systems in the building.

The city of Youngstown this morning approved a water/wastewater grant of up to $500,000 to help fund the project. The YMCA and its board of directors are helping to underwrite the $5 million total cost of the project and a capital campaign also is underway.

The YMCA will submit invoices for water- and wastewater-related items for reimbursement, Mayor John McNally said following this morning’s Board of Control meeting. “The Y truly is a hub of activity in downtown Youngstown,” bringing people downtown from 5:30 in the morning to 10 at night, he noted.

Contractors have made great progress, Hilk said. “Alex Downie & Sons has been great to work with in terms of making sure that we’re fully accessible” – at least as fully accessible as possible in a renovation project, he noted.

“We’re extremely proud and excited to be involved with this project because all of us Downie boys grew up in this building. I spent my childhood in this building,” Downie said.

Pictured: Mike Shaffer, director of the YMCA Central Branch, and Tim Hilk , executive director of the YMCA of Youngstown, stand in front of a hidden staircase revealed as demolition proceeds for the $5 million renovation project.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.