After 90 Years, Downtown St. Louis YMCA to Move to New Home at MX

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new Y

When a sprinkler burst in January 2014 above the Downtown St. Louis YMCA, it may have marked a new low in the significant building’s history. The residences above had been vacated, but not properly winterized. A loft conversion had been hoped for, but was not forthcoming.

Now, with the statement below, the YMCA has announced that it will move from its longtime home to a new space in the MX Building. The new location is planned to open as early as January 2017, with the current facility in operation until that date.

The current property, built in 1926 as a YMCA has been listed for $1.8. While the space occupied by the Y was not part of the listing, the rest of the building could house up to 100 1-2BD residential units on floors 3-10. Historic tax credits would likely be available. It is assumed that its redevelopment is now imminent.

The new location will put the YMCA in the redeveloped St. Louis Centre Mall. The MX has found success with several restaurants, but had several large vacancies years after completion. Information made available about the new location seems to indicate that a pool will not be part of the new location.

YMCA 4YMCA 3New MX YMCA

The presence of the YMCA in St. Louis dates to 1875. The organization occupied a four-story building at Grand and Franklin from 1898 until it was destroyed by fire in 1921. By the 1920s, new national standards for YMCA buildings had been enacted, and included:

  • Modern, fireproof construction in masonry
  • Exterior design contracted to local architects, whose artistic freedom was encouraged
  • Interior design either supplied or directed by Building Bureau architects
  • Interiors arranged around a formal hotel-like lobby, with social, dining and meeting
    spaces on separate floors from athletic facilities and sleeping rooms
  • Abandonment of the older YMCA “panopticon” arrangement where the manager’s desk
    provided views to all recreational and athletic facilities on a first floor, in favor of
    functions segregated on different levels
  • Interiors furnished and decorated artistically, with a “home like” effect emphasizing
    comfort
  • Separate entrances for men and boys monitored by a common front desk or counter

YMCA statement on relocation to the MX:

Exciting changes are coming to the Downtown St. Louis Y!

The Board of Directors for the Gateway Region YMCA has voted to relocate the current Downtown St. Louis Y at 1528 Locust to a new location in the downtown central business district. Currently, the Y has signed a letter of intent for a new state-of-the-art facility at 6th and Locust Streets in the MX Building development.

“We are excited to relocate our Downtown Y to a new facility that will give our members better fitness features and amenities, and allow us to continue to serve the downtown community,” said Tim Helm, president and CEO of the Gateway Region YMCA. “For a number of reasons, the current facility faces significant annual financial losses. This, along with a sizable investment needed for deferred maintenance, prompted our search for a new location. This move will put us in a position to reduce the negative impact on our long-term fiscal health and provide continued service to the downtown community and those from around the bi-state area who use the facility.”

The new location will feature many amenities, including a fitness center, group exercise rooms, the latest equipment, private showers, changing rooms and steam rooms, an outdoor patio for outdoor classes and social functions, and an open lobby with free Wi-Fi, coffee, gathering and working areas. The target date for opening the new branch is January 2017. Operations will continue at the current facility until the new facility is ready.

The Downtown Y branch has been in its current building since 1926 and has approximately 1,400 members – roughly one percent of the Association’s area-wide membership base. Membership at the Y allows access to all 24 branches in the bi-state area, so members can continue to take advantage of the great amenities and classes at any branch, including the four other branches in the City of St. Louis – the South City Family Y, the Monsanto Family Y, the Carondelet Park Rec Complex, and the O’Fallon Park Rec Complex.

In addition, the recent addition of a new YMCA Community Development Branch that manages outreach programs and volunteer experiences will continue to run the community-based programs formerly operated through the Downtown Y.

The current Downtown facility employs approximately seven full-time people. We will work to provide opportunities for staff to continue employment at either the new location or at other branches which have openings. The Downtown Y also has many other part-time staff — like class instructors — who work at other branches within the association, and they will continue to have those employment opportunities.

For questions and more information please contact the Downtown Y at 314.436.4100.
1528 Locust brochure map{Downtown YMCA location since 1926 shown as “Subject”}

YMCA 2

YMCA_1

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  • Matthew Wittich

    No gymnasium, no hot tubs, no driving range, no sauna, no locker rooms with the lounge inside, and no hair salon/barber. What a mess.

  • I’m curious to know what the parking numbers look like for MX? Is it at max-cap during the workday? Are a lot of people driving in to park and go to the theater and restaurants? And for that matter, how’s the theater doing?

    With no evidence, my guess is that the overshot the need for parking? That’d be a shame, as the southern portion of MX, where YMCA is going, would be much better as a four-story commercial/office space than one floor at street level with three parking floors above.

  • addxb2

    I emailed the director about 3 months ago suggesting this location. I also suggested that they take the lead on bike-share, with 10-20 downtown stations first.

    This will probably give a vote of confidence to the Railroad Exchange developers. They can save money amenities and it makes their location more desirable.

  • Justin Striebel

    Not having a pool is a huge miss and loss. They can say it if they want, but it’s not a state of the art YMCA without a pool. And if the commenter below me is right that there is also not a track… that’s an even worse miss because it’s no where near the cost of a pool. By all means they needed a new building, but cutting services is not a good thing.

  • John

    Why no pool and no indoor track? YMCA members who are traveling and visiting downtown from out of state will not be impressed with the lack of amenities. Missed opportunities, however, I can understand the budget constraints. It would be nice to see a corporate donor step in to enhance the project and help financially support all Gateway YMCA locations The $1.8M valuation seems low, but perhaps the old building is in extremely poor condition. Loft and historic rehab opportunity makes sense. I hope that happens.

    • the old building is a tear down. the sprinker flood left it so badly damaged that rehab would be prohibitively expensive.

      • Adam

        no it’s not. you just want everything to be a tear-down.

        • Alex Ihnen

          I’d bet against a tear down.

      • Steve Kluth

        Tear down? No. Gut rehab? Most likely.

  • DowntownJohn

    This is very sad news for those of us with an affection for the old downtown YMCA. It’s a real loss to the downtown west neighborhood. I’m going to miss the grand old building with it’s beautiful lobby, pool, and social gathering areas. They don’t build ’em like this anymore. I’m also going to miss being able to walk across the street for my workout! I understand that it is a money pit, but it is a glorious one.

    • Dan

      Sad indeed. I was just thinking about joining the downtown location in large part due to that historic facility.

    • TIm E

      John, great last line & comment.

  • citylover

    How bout H&M in MX too? 🙂

  • Dan

    Am I right in understanding that upper floors had been an SRO-type option? That’s an important housing need. I wonder if there’s a way to have some sort of redevelopment that allows some units for that purpose. MX is convenient for mass transit, but certainly further from the majority of the residential component downtown.

    • John R

      Dan, interesting notion… iirc the apartments last were for seniors… as for SROs elsewhere, the only one I can think of downtown is the Mark Twain and I believe the owner would like to move away from that use.

      Also, according to Downtown STL, the population is now pretty even in Downtown and Downtown West, with about 4,500 each…. and with more workers, I imagine the CBD will be more convenient to a larger number of folks.

      • Dan

        All the more reason to preserve some SRO options for folks. I think there was an old hotel near Firestone on Olive that was just recently an SRO property. I think it’s been cleared out now. There used to be at least a dozen east of Tucker from what I understand. Now they are all gone except the MT, and I hope it stays.

    • The upper levels originally housed individual sleeping rooms rented to members as temporary and long-term housing. In 1977 Donn Lipton converted most of these units into one-bedroom efficiency apartments.

      • Dan

        Thanks Michael. Other than the Mark Twain (for now), is there a single remaining SRO hotel downtown?

        • The Lincoln Hotel at 2228 Olive Street is still open. The city needs more SROs, which once were a large part of the downtown housing stock (and played a role in limiting homelessness).

          • Dan

            If that’s the place next to Firestone, that looks like it’s been cleared out recently.

  • mc

    This is good news. And now the building occupied by the YMCA currently, can become lofts.

  • Luftmentsch

    Good: they’re staying in a walkable part of downtown. They were thinking of building a facility somewhere north of downtown, surrounded by a sea of parking.
    Bad: no more pool; loss of a classy, interesting home that still had something of the feel of an old men’s club. Bummer too for residents of the Terra Cotta and nearby lofts.

    • Alexander Jones

      as someone looking to return to St Louis, the Y was a big part of my willingness to consider downtown west. While I understand the need for a relocation, that atmosphere will never be replicated.

  • k

    No pool?

  • John R

    This should be a great move for the Y and downtown.