The Greater Kansas City YMCA has selected the former Lyric Theatre building for its long-awaited return to downtown Kansas City.
The vacated theater at 11th and Central streets — just a few blocks west from where a former Y once stood at 10th and Oak — is to become a $37 million, four-level, 85,000-square-foot community center.
A $20 million fundraising drive is underway to meet the total costs. The city of Kansas City already has allocated $16.9 million in tax increment financing by amending the existing 11th Street Corridor TIF plan to include the Lyric renovation.
“I have a high degree of confidence that funders will be very interested in the site,” Peter deSilva, a UMB executive who is leading the fundraising efforts, said Thursday.
He said he thinks he’s about “halfway there” with commitments and hopes to have fundraising completed within nine to 12 months.
Construction is expected to take 12 to 15 months after all funds are in hand, and the new Y could be ready for use in mid-2017.
David Byrd, president and chief executive of the Greater Kansas City YMCA, said the Lyric site has been the target choice for about a year.
In 2011, Byrd announced that the Y intended to return a major facility to downtown Kansas City, but part of the time since then was spent on evaluating alternate sites at 11th and Cherry streets and 10th and Grand Boulevard.
Potential donors had balked at the initial target site at 10th and Grand, which would have required building a $12 million parking garage.
The Lyric site benefits from an adjacent surface parking lot that will be part of the lease package designed for the Y. DST Realty had purchased the 110,000-square-foot Lyric building in 2007 for about $2 million and also controls the parking lot.
“The site cuts $12 million off the projected costs,” deSilva said. “Plus, it’s important to save and reuse the building.”
“I can’t think of a better location for them,” said Sean O’Byrne, vice president of the Downtown Council. “And to have it as part of the historic facade of the Lyric, that’s even better.”
The building opened in 1926 as the Ararat Shrine Temple. It subsequently became the 3,000-seat home to the Lyric Opera and Kansas City Symphony before they moved to the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
The Downtown Council will serve as the project developer through DTC Community Development Inc., its nonprofit affiliate.
O’Byrne said the site was a smart move for the Y, and that it will be good for the growing population of downtown residents as well as draw members from other neighborhoods.
“It’s another economic engine for downtown,” O’Byrne said.
Byrd said exact plans remain under development. Basically, the new Y is expected to house two regulation-size gymnasiums on the third floor, to be used for basketball and volleyball, plus rooms for exercise and classes such as yoga and pilates.
A wrap-around, indoor track slightly longer than one-tenth of a mile is slated for the fourth level.
Plans call for the lowest level, basically subground, to include a lap pool of maybe 25 yards, a warm-water therapy pool with water features, and locker rooms.
The ground-level floor, with the main entrance on 11 Street, is expected to house a Y preschool for up to 100 students, community meeting rooms, a healthy eating food bar and facilities for a medical, or wellness, partner to provide preventive care, education and perhaps rehabilitation services.
Byrd said the facility is being designed to meet desires expressed by downtown residents in a survey taken a couple of years ago.
He said it was too early to say what might happen to a small Y facility that currently operates on Quality Hill. There also are no immediate plans to alter any other Y community centers in the region, he said.
Byrd came to Kansas City after leading downtown Y redevelopments in Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Based on his experience in what he considers comparable markets, he said he expects the downtown Kansas City Y to generate 5,000 memberships that cover about 12,000 individuals.
He said the Y works to make access financially possible by offering subsidized memberships for those in need. He said about 25 percent of Y members are getting some kind of financial assistance.
“The success of any Y depends on community participation,” Byrd said, “but I’m very confident in this plan and this location.”
In particular, he expects the downtown Y to be a physical fitness partner with the nearby Crossroads Academy charter school on Central. And he would like to cooperate with the Kansas City school district to provide swimming lessons to second-graders in the public schools, part of his focus on drowning prevention.
Byrd said he also hopes that the Y gyms and other facilities can be used for city-sponsored programs such as night basketball tournaments and other teen activities.
The Y initially had hoped to open a downtown community center by 2016, part of a regional overhaul that involved closing underused Y branches in Independence, Raytown and Kansas City, Kan.
Downtown Kansas City has lacked a major Y since 1981, when it closed its former seven-story building at 10th and Oak. That facility was demolished in 1999, and Ilus W. Davis Park now occupies the site. The smaller Quality Hill location was opened in 1989.