Niles-Buchanan YMCA expansion moving forward

NILES — Adding square footage is just the beginning for the Niles-Buchanan YMCA as new construction will begin moving forward at the location on N. Front Street.

The Niles-Buchanan YMCA will share its ground-breaking ceremony for its Capital Expansion virtually 9 a.m. Thursday on its Facebook page. The ground-breaking kicks off the $2.5 million expansion that the YMCA location has had in the works for years.

Prior to COVID-19, the staff with the Niles-Buchanan YMCA hoped to host an in-person ceremony to commemorate the groundbreaking. Instead, at the event time the organizers will release a pre-recorded video in the celebration’s place.

“It’s premiering a video that we’ve made with some of the key partners, donors,” said Jill Haboush, vice president of the fund development and marketing for the YMCA of Greater Michiana. “We will have the mayor speak. Our board chair will speak, and our CEO will speak.”

The expansion will add approximately 13,700 square feet to the facility and include a full-size gymnasium, youth and teen centers, and a fitness room.

“The whole premise is in the title of the expansion, with the campaign ‘Changing Lives and Improving Health,’” Haboush said. “For our teen and youth community, we want to provide them a safe place to be for that after school care, that after school homework assistance, a healthy snack, the physical activity.”

“It also leads to that improving health not just for the kids but our members as well. Having that additional space will allow for the healthier community in general with so many people as members of the Y here.”

Since 2011, the idea to expand the Niles-Buchanan YMCA has been on the minds of those working at the location, according to Haboush.

“It’s a long time coming,” she said. “We had actually gotten approval from the city [of Niles] for the expansion in 2019, when we met with the contractor.”

According to paperwork highlighting the growth of the Niles-Buchanan YMCA for the Capital Expansion, the location’s membership grew from 1,050 in 2007 to 7,474 in 2017.

With the South Bend-Mishawaka YMCA building announcing its closure on May 26, members of the location have been directed to utilize other area facilities including the Niles-Buchanan and Benton Harbor-St. Joseph branches, as they reopen.

“It was coincidental that the construction crews were available to start [Niles-Buchanan YMCA capital expansion] during the same time frame of the South-Bend Mishawaka YMCA building closure,” said Kayla Foster, marketing director for the YMCA of Greater Michiana.

The original groundbreaking date was estimated to take place by Pearson and Tera Architects in December 2019, but officials from the YMCA did not want to risk poor weather conditions for building and postponed the groundbreaking until March. In March, COVID-19 mandates pushed the groundbreaking back further. Now, Haboush is excited to see the construction finally beginning. The estimated length of the build is between six and eight months.

“We are hoping to get dirt moving by next week,” she said.