Demolition permits are expected to be issued by the end of the week which will allow the preliminary work to begin for the South Orange Family YMCA’s $2.1 million expansion project.
The long-awaited project includes a 25-yard, four-lane lap pool; a full-court gym; additional program space for children, seniors and the community; and a yoga studio in addition to other amenities. This will give the Y the ability to introduce new community programs and services.
Capital campaign: $625,310
The greater Monroe community supported the project by donating $625,310 through a capital campaign project.
Officials said a fall 2020 opening still remains on target and official groundbreaking plans will be announced soon.
The last hurdle to get even this far happened last August, when the Village of Monroe Planning Board unanimously voted to give site plan approval and a special use permit to Y.
That happened after a longstanding planning board requirement for a second egress to the facility to accommodate the projected additional traffic was modified.
Still, that decision came after years of work by the Y, county, state and village officials to cross the Heritage Trail between the laundry mat and Wally’s Ice Cream on Route 17M resulted in the Y getting all the necessary approvals - except from the Village of Monroe Board of Trustees.
Making the most of the delays
But the Y believes such a road is beneficial and pledged to continue its efforts to construct one.
Officials said the delays gave the Y the unexpected time to further refine its plans and make the project an even better one for the community.
“That time, this past year, was also spent on looking at how we best use the space to serve the community,” said YMCA of Middletown CEO Ira Besdansky. “Members and donors have been very patient with us. Members understand we’ve not been sitting by the wayside, we’ve really put a lot of time into this. We further looked at how do we make the best use of the space, to make an already effective and functional space even better?”
Board member Tom Olley, a civil engineer involved with the project, said what also helped was the tenant, who had been occupying the space for the expansion, announced he’d be leaving sooner than expected, giving engineers better access to the space.
“We realized our tenant was moving out of the space relatively soon versus what we were looking at a year before, giving us the ability able to look at things with fresh eyes as far as the structure was concerned,” said Olley. “We looked at how we’d go about rearranging the steel supports to give us better use of the space. It allowed us to have an opportunity for better internal design and space usage and a better functioning plan.”
He added: “We anticipate within a few days we will have demolishing permit in hand which will allow us to do some of the preparation, like relocating electric and water lines, and removing some of the concrete slabs and closing up doorways. These are the first elements of beginning construction for the pool. We are hoping that by the end of March we will be well underway, with a possible grand opening of the pool expected in the fall. First, it’s the demo permit, then a building permit. It’s a two-step process. “
Lemons and lemonades
Though delays frustrated Y officials, members of the community and others committed to seeing the expansion project happen, Olley noted there was a silver lining.
“It’s an old, tired cliché,” he said. “We tried to make lemonade out of lemons. We took the opportunities with the delay and the fact our tenant was moving out, to seize the opportunities to have a better plan for our members. We didn’t cut anything out of the program, but we did look at how we could better utilize our money and address things like getting rid of columns and creating a clear span. We came up with new approaches. Whenever we can do things more simply, it translates into to less cost.”
Besdansky was beyond thrilled to let members and the community knows work was finally beginning.
“I‘m literally speechless,” he said. “It’s been a long time. We’re ecstatic to have gotten to this point. Finally, this is the first step. There’s going to be activity. Things will be happening and I believe this generates excitement. Then it (work) will start to be fast and furious. It’s a dream which has finally come true."
"We’re ecstatic to have gotten to this point. Finally, this is the first step. There’s going to be activity. Things will be happening and I believe this generates excitement. Then it (work) will start to be fast and furious. It’s a dream which has finally come true."
YMCA of Middletown CEO Ira Besdansky