The low-interest loan will be used to renovate the Fairless Hills branch, making it more user friendly. The Y also will update its Doylestown branch.
A drone passover convinced Zane Moore that the Lower Bucks YMCA didn’t need to move to improve.
Moore, the CEO of YMCA of Bucks County, knew after seeing the view from above that the existing building could be renovated to make it more user friendly while keeping it in its current location on Levittown Parkway in Bristol Township.
On Wednesday, the actual plans for those renovations got a big push when the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority announced it was giving the YMCA of Bucks County $20 million in tax-free financing to support the refinancing of long-term debt and to pay for planned capital improvements at both the Lower Bucks Y, now called the Fairless Hill branch, and Central Bucks Y, now called the Doylestown branch.
The newly formed YMCA of Bucks County also has branches in Newtown, Quakertown and Warminster, which also will benefit as some of the funding will be used for programming and services throughout the Y organization.
Moore said the YMCA of Bucks County serves 60,000 members and participants each year, including children in programs who depend on the Y for meals, and provides $5 million in community impact programs and financial assistance to individuals and families.
Use of the financing will allow the Y to make the major improvements while completing its capital campaign to pay for the projects. Moore said the Y campaign has collected $16.5 million of its $20 million goal.
Renovations to the Central Bucks Y will begin in November while the Lower Bucks Y renovations will start in the spring. Both projects should take about 18 months to complete.
The financing will be arranged in November by Fulton Bank. The interest rate has not yet been set but it will be low, said Mary Smithson, chair of the BCIDA, at the news conference for the announcement, held at the Fairless Hills branch.
In 2017, the Y had planned to move its location to a nearby park in Falls but community opposition contributed to Y officials rethinking the decision and they decided the Y should stay at its current location.
The Fairless Hills branch will “look and feel brand new,” Moore said. The building will be reconfigured within its current footprint to allow for an expanded fitness center, new universal locker room, additional program space and a community gathering area. Moore said its current 60,000 square feet will be reduced to 48,000, but the space within the renovated structure will be better utilized while allowing more ground available for parking.
“It’s a landmark. Everybody knows where it is,” Smithson said of the Fairless Hills building, which has been located on the parkway since 1960. “We’re very happy to partner with them,” she added.
Moore grew up in the Lower Bucks Y, he said. “I do have some personal feelings about seeing this rebuilt.”
The Doylestown branch will have its fitness center expanded and a larger spin studio and program space will be added as well as a new, universal locker room.
Smithson said the BCIDA is a “pass-through” organization that funnels state funds to assist educational and charitable institutions and businesses in need. For example, she said it has helped area hospitals, educational institutions and some businesses with its low-interest loans and tax exemptions so they can make capital improvements as they await the availability of funds that donor promise in capital campaigns.
Bucks County Commissioner Chairman Robert Loughery and Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia, who both attended the funding announcement, said their families participated in Y activities.
Like Moore, Marseglia said she grew up with the Lower Bucks Y, where her father, brother and daughters also exercised or learned to swim. “This is a very valuable part of our community. It’s very valuable to families in this community. … It’s staying right where we’re used to it being and I appreciate the reuse of the area,” she said.
Loughery said that “we enjoy an incredible quality of life in Bucks County. We’re very blessed with that. … In order to enjoy it, it’s important that we’re healthy.”
He noted that mental health was as important as physical health, especially with the challenges of the opioid crisis and other mental health issues. He said the ability to exercise and to compete in sports “creates a family that is healthy, a neighborhood that is healthy, schools that are healthy.
“We wanted to be part of this project today,” he said.