Downtown YMCA project is still on track

One of downtown’s most high-profile corners, 10th Street and Grand Boulevard, would be transformed from a parking lot to a sparkling community and recreation center through the architectural vision being embraced by the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.

The YMCA has been pursuing its $39 million downtown project for two years as part of a capital improvement program that includes an overhaul of its Linwood branch at 3800 E. Linwood Blvd. It recently commissioned renderings of the projects to help with its fundraising campaign that began a year ago.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we have a good vision of what it can be,” David Byrd, president and CEO of the YMCA, said Thursday. “We’re getting a good response from the community, and progress is being made.”

Byrd declined to discuss the amount raised to date by the campaign being led by Peter DeSilva, president and chief operating officer of UMB Financial Corp. The bank has agreed to donate its employee parking lot on the southeast corner of 10th and Grand for the planned Downtown Y Community Center.

DeSilva was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Byrd said the renderings of the proposed downtown and Linwood projects are being used to woo potential donors. The capital campaign, which includes other projects, has been estimated at $52 million. The drawings were prepared by a consultant, and an architect is expected to be chosen later this year.

“We’re sharing the image with people along with the initial floor plans of how it would work on the site,” Byrd said. “The idea of glass in the design is to emphasize openness and attract the community.”

According to an earlier prospectus prepared by the YMCA, programs at the 100,000-square-foot facility would include a healthy-living center where downtown corporations could send employees for classes, programs for teens, a summer day camp and a licensed early childhood education center for 100 children.

The proposed facility would include three swimming pools, large gymnasiums, locker rooms, saunas and therapeutic massage rooms, classrooms, a cafe, meeting rooms, a rooftop garden and courtyard, and a 500-space garage. About 100 employees would work there.

The planned project would mark the return of the YMCA, at least in a major way, to downtown Kansas City after a long absence. The original downtown YMCA opened in 1907 at 10th and Oak streets and operated until 1981. The seven-story building was torn down in 1999 to make way for Ilus W. Davis Park.

The Y has operated a 20,000-square-foot facility in the Quality Hill area of downtown since 1989, but it’s geared toward adult fitness activities. The proposed new downtown Y is intended to be a community center as much as a fitness and recreation facility.

“This will be more than a gym and swim or place to work out,” Byrd said. “It will have many programs to offer people in the downtown area.”