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Hopes turns into apartments plans at former YMCA

The idea of renovating the former YMCA building for some other use was a hopeful one, but years of vacancy and an aging interior seemed to argue more for a future as a parking lot.

Now there is much more than hope.

There is a $4 million investment from JRAS Realty of Jessup.

There are plans for 30 units of various sizes from small studios to one- and two-bedroom apartments.

There are plans for a second-floor atrium garden.

And by the end of 2020, the “Lofts of West Branch” will be a signature entrance to Williamsport’s historic district instead of the parking lot some feared it would become.

Councilwoman Liz Miele and a small group of supporters have been trying to save the building from the wrecking ball since the YMCA vacated it early in 2016 for a new building next to UPMC Susquehanna.

Wishes are one thing and preserving historic structures is laudable, but history is not enough. There has to be a plan that works to make preservation happen.

The plan by the Scranton-area developers calls apartments priced in the $900 to $1,100 a month range the “market rate” for housing such as that which is planned.

That plan matches a need, particularly in the city’s downtown, for “high-quality, new or renovated housing,” according to the councilwoman.

We have believed that also, but our beliefs don’t matter nearly as much as a developer’s ledger sheet prospectus. And that prospectus says that the city is getting a preserved jewel at the entrance to its historic district by this time next year.

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