With nearly 150 years of service in the city - 90 of those at 320 Elmira St. - the Williamsport YMCA is poised to build a new, modern facility on the campus of the Williamsport Regional Medical Center that is expected to open its doors by the spring of 2014.
The campaign for a new $10 million downtown YMCA was announced to the public on March 7 before a meeting of potential donors and community leaders at the Williamsport Country Club.
Plans call for a new building away from the downtown to have a vastly improved usage of space compared to the 210,000-square-foot conglomoration of structures that are now in use. YMCA officials said there are about 70,000 square feet of wasted space among hallways and unusable rooms in the present facility.
Property for the new facility is being made available in the 700 block of two parallel streets, High Street and Park Avenue.
Dave Fagerstrom, executive director and CEO of the River Valley Regional YMCA, which oversees five Ys in the area, said the new facility will have the ability to impact more families and children while operating from a new neighborhood near the updated hospital campus.
YMCA leaders said it's too expensive to use and maintain the present building with costly heating, cooling and repair bills.
"We can't afford to keep this Y and continue to serve the community," said Jim Bower Sr., fundraising campaign chairman, who likened the project to the Eastern Lycoming YMCA that opened in July 2008.
"We don't need to guess what we need for a new Y," he said.
That facility has 4,000 members, which totals more than the city's numbers.
"People think of the Y as a gym and swim. It's not," said Fagerstrom. "The building is just a tool to help meet the Y's mission."
In order for the YMCA to complete the project, 14 houses - mostly rental properties - were required to be purchased and razed by Susquehanna Health.
Susquehanna Health offered owners fair market value for their homes, payment for independent property appraisals, payment of closing costs and real estate commissions, payment for moving expenses within a 40-mile radius and a $2,500 payment for each tenant household.
Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said he wasn't concerned about the 14 properties being removed from the city's tax rolls because he expects revenue to be generated from the reuse of the YMCA's old building as a mix of residential, office and retail.
Susquehanna Health has closed on 12 of the 14 affected properties. A lease agreement for the land was finalized between that organization and the YMCA earlier this month, according to Tracie Witter, a health system spokeswoman.
Health system officials described the relationship between the YMCA and itself as a "perfect partnership."
"Susquehanna Health and the YMCA share the same commitment to provide health and wellness opportunities for residents of our region," said Steven Johnson, president and CEO of the health system.
Johnson added that the project - along with Susquehanna Health's expansion into the neighborhood - may provide for additional future private development.
The original YMCA building and Pickelner Arena were sold to local developer Dan Klingerman, owner of The Liberty Group. Proceeds from the sale would be used for the cost of the new project, according to Fagerstrom.
Other funding for the project is expected in the form of public donations, grants and New Markets Tax Credits.
The federal tax credit program allows eligible Pennsylvania companies to invest in the project and receive tax credits from the U.S. government. Fagerstrom said he expects nearly $2 million from that program.
According to the New Markets Tax Credits program, investment is limited to "impoverished zones." Fagerstrom said the YMCA reached out to Susquehanna Health because its campus was the only place in the city that qualifies for program funding.
The YMCA also received a $1 million donation from Ronald and Rosalie Cimini, of Loyalsock Township and a $500,000 grant from the city-based First Community Foundation of Pennsylvania with an opportunity for another $250,000 if the YMCA reaches $9.5 million by April 1.
After construction begins in the spring of next year, as expected, Fagerstrom said the new facility should be completed in about 12 to 14 months.
He said the project is about $1.5 million away from achieving its goal of a new debt-free facility.
"Plans are 100 percent done," said Fagerstrom, adding that groundbreaking is anticipated for April or May.
"There's a lot of different pieces that need to come together and they need to come together at the same time," he said.
Fagerstrom said he has been encouraged by the support of the community and partnership with Susquehanna Health.
"There's a lot of people that think a new Y by the hospital would be great, and that's why they supported it," he said.