By Kevin Collison
After a 36 year absence, a full-service YMCA is returning to downtown Kansas City following approval Tuesday of state tax credits needed to help finance building its new home in the historic Lyric Theater.
The Missouri Development Finance Board approved up to $4 million in state tax credits, a move that’s expected to allow the YMCA to complete its fundraising for the $32 million project that’s been in the works since 2012.
YMCA officials will use the tax credits to leverage $8 million in private contributions required to complete financing for the project.
The YMCA redevelopment plan designed by BNIM architects for the Lyric calls for the historic facade and lobby of the vacant theater building at 11th and Central to be retained and an addition with pool, fitness center, indoor track and gym built behind it.
Market studies have indicated the new facility, which would take up to 2 ½ years to build, would attract 5,000 members and serve up to 15,000 people. In addition to the exercise facilities, the planned Downtown Y will serve as a major community center with addtional health services.
David Byrd, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City said a partnership between the city, the Truman Medical Center and the Downtown Council were instrumental in achieving the goal of a large downtown YMCA.
“We’re thankful to the city, the Truman Medical Center and the Downtown Council for partnering with us, and the Missouri Development Finance Board for their confidence in this project to transform the community,” Byrd said in a statement.
The new facility not only will bring the YMCA back to downtown in a big way, but find a new use for the historic Lyric, which lost its major tenants, the Kansas City Symphony and Lyric Opera, when the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2011.
“This is going to be a transformative project for our downtown,” City Councilwoman Jolie Justus said in a statement. “We’re repurposing the historic Lyric building and increasing access to services for a growing downtown population.”
The new YMCA is expected to serve a diverse population of residents and employees with healthy living programs, medical wellness clinic, swimming lessons, youth programs and other community services.
“The YMCA is the perfect project for tax credits,” Mayor Sly James said in a statement. “The development will provide crucial youth and and health services…Moreover, it will improve the overall quality of life for our downtown residents and help to further develop the downtown area.”
The planned YMCA was championed early on by the late Phil Kirk, the former chairman of DST Realty, who played an key role in downtown revitalization in the 1990s and early 2000s. Byrd previously has said the new YMCA will be named after Kirk.
The state tax credits will help the Y complete fundraising for the $32 million facility. The project already has raised $7.1 million in private donations and is receiving $16.9 million from the 11th Street Corridor Tax Increment Financing Plan.
Downtown Kansas City had a seven-story YMCA at 10th and Oak streets from 1907 until 1981. The building was torn down in 1999 to make way for Ilus W. Davis Park.
The Y has operated a 20,000-square-foot facility in the Quality Hill area of downtown since 1989, but it’s geared toward adult fitness activities.
“This project will significantly enhance the quality of life in our downtown and ensure that important health and wellness services are available to the public,” Sean O’Byrne, vice president of the Downtown Council, said in a statement.