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Residents, leaders hopeful new YMCA will be catalyst for neighborhood

Residents of the Warren-Sherman neighborhood on Monday gathered in the multipurpose room of the Wayman D. Palmer YMCA to share their vision for what a new YMCA should look like in order to best serve the community.

The city of Toledo is partnering with the YMCA of Greater Toledo to demolish the existing YMCA and build a brand new complex that will include an indoor pool, gym, wellness center, food pantry, child-care classrooms, and outdoor recreation space. Those features are just a starting point, YMCA leadership said, developed based on results of a phone survey of about 800 residents.

On Monday about 45 participants walked from display to display, Post-it Notes in hand, to mark which features they like or don’t like and to suggest more.

“We really need to take hold of this,” Toledo City Councilman Vanice Williams told attendees. “This is our neighborhood. This is our park. This is our Y.”

Cheryl Tyler-Folsom, a trustee for life with the YMCA of Greater Toledo, said she has been involved with the organization and advocated for the Wayman Palmer location since the late 1980s.

Kids and families in the neighborhood for years have asked why their YMCA doesn’t have a pool or other amenities that other Toledo YMCAs have. The redevelopment plans are long overdue, she said.

“I’m excited and looking forward for what’s in store,” she said.

She’s hopeful the new YMCA will include a community kitchen, which could partner with community gardens and teach children and families the importance of healthy eating.

Friend Juanita Greene, with the Toledo Community Coalition, said she hopes the new facility will include meeting rooms that could be rented out to service providers, businesses, and other organizations which would pay a fee to use the space. She also wants to ensure memberships are affordable to families which live in the neighborhood.

Plans call for building the new YMCA along 14th Street but closer to Bancroft Street, so that it can be seen from the busier street. Inez Nash Park will move to where the existing building stands now, which officials said will keep the neighborhood and the YMCA connected. It also will allow the current building to stay in use while its replacement is built.

The new building will have about 50,500 square feet, about twice the current YMCA’s size.

It is to be completed in 2024.

Joe Peterson, director of Scott High School’s community hub, said he wants to see the YMCA help provide access to services and opportunities for Toledo’s youth and families to get involved in different programs. He said the Warren-Sherman neighborhood can sometimes be overlooked, and it’s time for an investment like this one.

“This is about being better together. Opportunities like this show that we’re being inclusive for all communities,” he said.

Margaret Bannister, a 14-year resident of the neighborhood, said she wants to see more exercise, health, and wellness programs for seniors like herself, regardless of their ability.

She called the proposed rebuild “beautiful, and well-needed.”

City officials estimate the project will cost about $21 million, though that could change depending on how the final designs shake out. A public meeting will be at the existing YMCA on Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. to gather community thoughts on the plan for the new facility and park.

Rosalyn Clemens, the city’s Department of Neighborhoods director, said she anticipates funding will be a combination of public and private dollars. She is hopeful primary financing can come from a federal program that allows Community Development Block Grant Recipients to take out low-interest loans for economic development and infrastructure projects in the public interest.

Eric Williams, executive director of the Wayman Palmer YMCA, has worked with the YMCA organization for 25 years in three cities and said the planned redevelopment is “as good as it gets.”

He wants to see the new Inez Nash Park space developed with multi-use fields so he can offer a variety of outdoor sports and recreation for the youth who use the YMCA. Mr. Williams said the children, families, and seniors who use the facility will soon have access to a state-of-the-art building and equipment with high-quality programs and services.

“That’s huge, but the biggest thing to me is this could be the catalyst to transform the whole community,” he said. “This may spark other entities to say, ‘things are growing there, let’s get on board.’”


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on September 28, 2021.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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