YMCA, Lakeland unveil plans for new riverfront jewel here

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Today began the public phase of fundraising for a new, $8.5 million, state-of-the-art Niles-Buchanan YMCA facility, which will be located in downtown Niles.
Details of the project were announced at a press conference held at the site of the new facility near what is now the corner of Pokagon and Front streets.
Most significantly, Lakeland Regional Health System will operate a rehabilitation center in 5,000 square feet of the 70,000 square foot facility.
The new facility will be about twice the size of the current Niles-Buchanan YMCA.
The fund raising effort thus far has secured almost $6.4 million, said Tim Tyler, chairman of the Y's capital campaign. That money is a combination of fund raising gifts, a 20-year lease with Lakeland for the rehabilitation space, the donation of the land by the City of Niles, and an estimated amount of money expected from the sale of the present Y facility.
Tyler said about $1 million is pending in outstanding fund raising requests and the remaining $1.1 million needed is the goal of the community-wide phase of the fund raising campaign.
He said he hopes the effort to raise money to build the new Y is one the community will find worthy of their support.
Hendrie said gifts from the Y's volunteer board and its staff amount to about a half million dollars.
Hendrie said construction of the new facility, which should take about 18 months, is expected to begin in spring 2004. The YMCA has set a target date of summer 2005 to move into the new facility.
not bells and whistles'
Hendrie said the new Y building will feature all the necessary "nuts and bolts, but not bells and whistles. This facility will contain what we need to operate our community's YMCA, but on a grander scale."
In addition to the space dedicated to the Lakeland rehab center, the YMCA will include a fitness area, indoor track, a six-lane, indoor, regulation swimming pool, a warm water therapy pool and two gymnasiums.
The new facility will also offer more meeting spaces for community groups.
Dreher said the new Y project is cooperating with city government and Niles school systems, Lakeland hospital and its public health concerns, as well as ongoing efforts for economic expansion and those aimed at improving recreational opportunities and the social and health needs of our senior citizens.
The architectural firm of Vintage Archonics of Fort Wayne, Ind., is responsible for design for the new facility, which draws upon the beauty of Niles' historic train depot and the arches of nearby bridges spanning the St. Joseph River.
Vintage Archonics has built 15 Y facilities in the last 20 years, Hendrie said.
The facility will face the St. Joseph River and will feature a huge, wo-story, arched window, out of which those working out in the building's first-floor fitness area or walking or running on the building's second floor track can view the river.
Hendrie said the project from conception to present is about three years old. YMCA and Lakeland officials hired an independent firm to study a variety of aspects of the building project, including marketing and site selection.
He said the site at Pokagon and Front streets was by far the most desirable of any within the geographic area of Berrien and Cass counties which the Y serves.
The construction of a new facility will also mean the hiring of a number of additional YMCA employees.
Serving the Niles community's health and wellness needs
Lakeland CEO Joe Wasserman said the joint venture between Lakeland and the Y represents Lakeland's commitment to enhancing the way health care is delivered here.
Lakeland rehabilitation patients will be able to seek treatment from physical, occupational and speech therapy professionals at its portion of the new facility and will allow Lakeland patients "to experience the foll range of the Y's fitness facilities, wellness center and therapeutic swimming pool. This setting is conducive to providing therapy opportunities to patients while offering long-term opportunities for maintaining health and wellness," Wasserman said.

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