When the YMCA of Greater San Antonio first met with the Southside community nearly a decade ago, it was clear that young children and families needed a place to safely play, exercise and find resources needed to lead healthier lifestyles.
So when City staff passed plans for the first YMCA sports center on the Southside during an HDRC meeting on Wednesday, residents were understandably enthusiastic. The 14,000 sq. ft. center will stand just a few hundred feet from Mission Branch Library. The YMCA is partnering with the San Antonio Public Library to develop new, engaging programs and activities for area residents.
The new facility, named the Harvey E. Najim Family YMCA Center, will invite residents to exercise and move through new activities, learn about nutrition, and provide the resources needed to lead a healthy lifestyle.
The Southside community tends to approach new development with caution since the historic Missions achieved World Heritage Site status, especially after the apartments that were approved near Mission San José last year.
Mission San José, the “Queen of the Missions.” Photo by Scott Ball.
“We welcome the YMCA, and look forward to even more of this kind of community-centered, thoughtfully-planned development in the future,” said the Alliance for San Antonio Missions, a community-based organization, in a recent statement to The Rivard Report.
The area stakeholders and community groups overwhelmingly support the Southside YMCA.
“I know some of my residents have been working on this for more than five years and I was happy to push it forward,” said City Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) on Thursday. “This is going to be a transformative space and place for the entire community.”
The YMCA recently invited area residents to weigh in on the design plans, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but the plans must be approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council before construction can begin.
“I just see nothing but positive things happening here with this community,” said Joe Bueno, senior vice president of facilities and construction at YMCA of Greater San Antonio. The YMCA has met with local neighborhood associations and community groups several times over the years to hear residents’ expectations for the center’s design, amenities and programming.
“This is a very engaged group of folks, and they see this YMCA as a place that will provide services to all age groups and families in the community.”
The first phase of the project, set to be completed in spring 2017, will include a $5 million fitness center, a parking lot, and a 5,000 sq. ft. outdoor covered gymnasium for basketball games and other community activities. The YMCA found $5 million in funding from the City’s 2012 bond and private donations.
The Master Plan for the two-story building, designed by local firm Marmon Mok Architecture, includes a floor for exercise equipment, treadmills, group exercise areas, and yoga and aerobic classes. Parents can bring their children to the ChildWatch area, where little ones can play while adults attend group classes or focus on individual workouts.
A teaching kitchen, where members can learn more about healthy living, foods and how to prepare them for their families, will be a valuable resource for a community that has long struggled with high rates of diabetes and obesity.
The second phase of the project will include expanded parking options and a YMCA community garden, Bueno said, but officials hope to also secure funds for new multipurpose athletic fields for soccer and family activities. Similarly, the construction timeline for the third phase, which includes an outdoor pool, depends on funds raised.
The YMCA has begun branching out from its fitness core and reaching out to communities through new wellness kitchens, and even created a public library inside the Portranco YMCA. The Mission YMCA kitchen, which is estimated to span about 500 sq. ft., will give members an opportunity to talk about healthy living, and the new community garden – a feature unique to Mission YMCA – will show members how to grow produce.
“The YMCA is about much more than going in and exercising, we are also about healthy lifestyles and eating,” Bueno said. “This is such an amenity for that community and they’re hungry for this YMCA.”
Top Image: Screenshot of Master Plan for South Side YMCA.