With a flash of gold shovels, officials broke ground on a major expansion of one of Charlotte’s busiest and most prominent gyms on Tuesday, in a move meant to accommodate more members and new social programs at the Dowd YMCA.
The Dowd YMCA has been at its current location on East Morehead Street since 1960 and is the busiest branch of the local YMCA, with about 3,000 people using the facility most weekdays. The building includes office space for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte as well as the gym, and the renovation is the culmination of a nearly decade-long process to update the group’s flagship facility.
“As Charlotte has grown, and our neighbors’ needs change, it has become critical that we create new space for community to take shape and grow,” said Todd Tibbits, chief executive of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. “This project represents more than construction on a facility. It is our promise that this expansion and renovation will strengthen people and will strengthen the Y’s role in connecting communities and increasing social capital in Charlotte.”
It’s the latest change in a rapidly evolving corridor just outside of uptown. On Lexington Avenue, across from the Dowd YMCA, a new apartment building by Marsh Properties recently opened, with 235 units. And next to the Dowd, the seven-story 500 East Morehead office building is nearing completion. The building, developed by Beacon Partners, will include ground-floor restaurants.
An earlier phase of the Dowd YMCA expansion – a 383-space shared parking deck with Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church – is already open.
There will be some disruptions as a result of the expansion. Fitness equipment might move on floors one and three, some group exercise classes and schedules will change, one of the two men’s steam rooms will close and the yoga studio will move to the fourth floor during the week of April 10. The Morehead Street entrance to the Dowd YMCA will close and construction fencing will block off the parking lot there.
The YMCA expects to complete the renovation by the end of 2018.
The Dowd project has received $14.3 million worth of donations from corporations and individuals. The expansion will include a 40,000-square-foot, two-story addition that will have a rooftop deck with an outdoor track (13 laps to a mile) and 7,000 square feet of outdoor space for activities such as conditioning classes, sunrise yoga and community events. The expansion will take up most of what’s been a parking area between the building’s current front door and Morehead Street.
The new space will include a yoga studio, a barre studio (barre classes have been held in the basketball gyms), more cardiovascular, strength and free-weight space, new community gathering spaces and a childcare space doubled in size.
The expansion will also create a co-working space for “social mission entrepreneurs” and nonprofit groups, to be called the Center for Social Innovation. With the expanded space, the Dowd YMCA expects a 12 percent expansion of its membership, to 20,000. Part of that goal: a membership base that’s diverse economically as well as in other areas, with one quarter of members having a household income below $30,000.
Pete Lash, chairman of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte board, said the expanded space needs to be used to address inequalities in Charlotte and to include people from diverse backgrounds.
“We absolutely have to use this facility … to impact the community,” said Lash.