42 Images of The Locust Street YMCA – 90 Years In Downtown St. Louis

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The Gateway Region YMCA recently announced the Downtown YMCA will be moving from its current location at 1528 Locust Street in the Downtown West neighborhood to the MX Building (formerly St. Louis Centre) near 6th and Locust Streets in the Downtown neighborhood. The YMCA message to its members can be found below. The nextSTL story is here: After 90 Years, Downtown St. Louis YMCA to Move to New Home at MX.

New MX YMCA

As a member of the YMCA, I am a bit nostalgic for this location. St. Louis has five locations including Carondelet, Monsanto (near Page and Union), O’Fallon, South City and Downtown. Of those, the Downtown Y is the oldest and has the feel of an old school men’s club. While the building is 90 years old, it is still functional and unique. It was built to be special and grand from the lobby to the swimming pool.

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Based on the current press statements, you can’t help but feel like this is a downsizing, a reduction in amenities and size for the Downtown location. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the YMCA wants to reduce it’s footprint and operating costs of the older, larger building: “The building we’re currently in is too large of a space for our membership size,” Helm said. “This moves us into a smaller space that is more appropriately sized for the number of members we have.”

Racquetball courts and a swimming pool are among the features at the current facility that won’t be available at the new MX Y. They didn’t mention the indoor driving range, sauna, whirlpool, volleyball/basketball court, barber shop or track, but I presume these will not be available either. As a member and city lover, this feels like a continuation of the downsizing of the YMCA’s presence downtown as they closed the Marquette location at 314 Broadway back in 2012 and now will be reducing the size and scope of the last remaining Y downtown.

The best outcome for St. Louis is that the 1528 Locust location is purchased and redeveloped as residential bring more density to this part of downtown and the MX location brings the “new” amenities that many if not most patrons desire. A win:win if that scenario plays out.

So I’ll share some of the touches that have caught my eye:

STL Downtown YMCA_13{full service barber shop}

STL Downtown YMCA_16{vintage pool with beautiful tile}

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STL Downtown YMCA_22{indoor driving range}

STL Downtown YMCA_25{the track surrounds the main cardio and weight training gym}

STL Downtown YMCA_26{angled track abuts wood floor areas for stretching}

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STL Downtown YMCA_24{three racquetball courts were recently refinished}

STL Downtown YMCA_23STL Downtown YMCA_21

STL Downtown YMCA_28{basketball/volleyball court is always in use and is a good, welcoming scene}

STL Downtown YMCA_34{carved wood panels throughout the main entrance}

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Old scales are scattered throughout the gym that might be as old as the building:

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STL Downtown YMCA_32{honest weights}

There are marble stairs and carved wood hand rails.

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There are small workout and meditation rooms throughout that afford privacy while exercising.

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Gone will be the bright red neon and metal sign atop this beautiful building.

STL Downtown YMCA_8

The upper floors (not leased by the YMCA) are being left to deteriorate and little to no work is being done to slow the decline. For instance, the upper floor windows and doors on the southern face of the building are open to the elements. Per City records, it is owned by Sonny Property #1 LLC in Benton, Illinois.

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The exterior has plenty of nods to the YMCA.

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But more than anything, it is the vibe I will miss. Each of the five St. Louis locations has it’s own feel. This location has a lot of older guys, mainly older black guys. The music coming through the sound system was old school soul and R & B. It was a very chilled vibe with lots of regulars who seemed like they’ve know each other for years…almost like a family. It is the most relaxed Y I’ve been to and that is why we frequent this one. You rarely have to wait for the equipment/amenities.

So per the YMCA’s current plans, the 1528 Locust location will be open through January, 2017 until the new location is operational. So if you are like me and appreciate 1920s architecture and design, go check it out while you can.

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Following is an excerpt from the YMCA’s statement to members:

new Y

Exciting changes are coming to the Downtown St. Louis Y!
Dear Valued Member,

I’m writing to share with you some exciting and significant changes with the Downtown Y facility. The Board of Directors for the Gateway Region YMCA has voted to relocate the current Downtown 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.

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.

This decision comes after a year of careful and extensive research and deliberation by a special committee made up of Downtown Y board volunteers, Metro board volunteers, and staff, as well as by an independent research firm, to study options for the future of the Downtown branch. 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.

There is nothing you need to do at this time. We will notify you when we have finalized an opening date for the new Downtown Y. In the meantime, the current facility will remain open. As a reminder, membership at the Y is “Join One, Join All”, so you are allowed full access to any of our 24 branches in the bi-state area, including our 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.

Sincerely,
Tim Helm
President and CEO, Gateway Region YMCA

_____________

Mark Groth writes at his site St. Louis City Talk – pay it a visit and plan to get lost in St. Louis history for an hour or two!

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  • Shawna W. Brinson

    Bit sad, but not surprising. YMCA of STL headquarters moved out of the building in 2014, following flooding from broken pipes in floors above (not owned by the YMCA). The aging facility, the merger with SWIL YMCA and new leadership at the top were all bound to lead plans away from the old place. I wish them luck, though wish downtown wasn’t losing a pool!

  • Dan

    This is a great loss and a poor decision by the Y, especially as the downtown and nearby neighborhoods’ population continues to grow.

  • John

    Sad for downtown St. Louis that there will not be a pool, whirlpool, sauna, among other missing amenities at the new YMCA. Business travelers and convention attendees who are YMCA members from out of town will not be impressed. Plus, downtown needs to attract more new residents.

    The St. Louis Gateway YMCA can do better. They need a strong capital campaign and corporate and private donors to make this YMCA, and all St. Louis area YMCAs, top tier. We deserve first-class facilities throughout the St. Louis region instead of status quo. Come on, Gateway Region YMCA. You can do better than this! Rise to the challenge of greatness.

  • Mr. Jones

    This feels so shortsighted. Downtown is growing more and more each year, and a YMCA without a pool or basketball court is no YMCA at all. Now nothing sets them apart from any other gym in the area.

    Why not get a loan to rehab the upper floors and use the proceeds for the building? This doesn’t seem smart at all.

  • Ben Harvey

    Hopefully the more significant amenities can be preserved for when the area gains more population. While the demand may currently be too low to support such a venue, a couple decades from now that might not be the case. It would be a shame to lose such a beautiful facility that could be reborn into an independent boutique athletic club in the not so distant future.