EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 14, 2013

YMCA expansion plans advancing

Plans will nearly double size

By Dustin Luca

---- — ANDOVER — It has been five years in the making. Now, the $21 million expansion to the Haverhill Street-based YMCA is moving forward.

Plans for a massive expansion expected to wrap up in early 2015 are before various town boards as Y officials look to put their largest investment ever into the 40-year-old facility, according to Stephen Ives, CEO of Merrimack Valley YMCA.

The work will nearly double the building’s size — adding 49,552 square feet to the current 54,586-square-foot facility on Haverhill Street — and support new and expanded programs for the young, old and everything in-between.

“The Y has been an integral part of the community for over 40 years,” Ives said. “As we expand this and make it even more significant, it will have an even more profound impact over the next 40 years.”

Work includes a new child care center on the left side of the building and a 2 1/2-story, “glass-enclosed structure” on the right that will house a new multipurpose pool, an exercise and weight training facility and an Active Living Center for Older Adults open to the public, according to Ives.

The idea is to “encourage people from all walks of life to participate in activities under the same roof together,” Ives said. “Our brand promise is a strength in the foundations of community.”

Also being included in the main expansion is a 5,000-square-foot Community Health and Physical Therapy Center operated by Lawrence General Hospital, according to Ives.

The project is being tackled in phases, with the first phase involving site work and the construction of the child care center, Ives said.

While much depends on the weather, the second phase of construction incorporating the multipurpose pool and active living center will likely start in the spring, Ives said.

During that time, everything inside will operate through a sense of transition.

“We’re doing this in phases, so we can continue to operate our YMCA through construction and have as little interruption as possible,” Ives said. “The phasing is still being finalized.”

The project came before the Planning Board last Tuesday, Oct. 8, the same day it faced the scrutiny of an inter-departmental review that put it under the microscope of several town departments.

At the meeting, Haverhill Street neighbor Katherine Lambert said that, in the neighborhoods around the Y, “there’s general excitement about the project.”

“We have a number of seniors in the community,” she said. “The demographic is such so a lot of people are excited about the community center.”

But where there is excitement, there are also concerns.

“The exit to Coachman’s Ridge, the cars come out at the exit of YMCA, and there’s already a backup of traffic that causes some concern with potential accidents,” she said. “My biggest concern is being sure that there’s some type of traffic study that goes on.”

Ives said his organization was “encouraged by our first meeting with the Planning Board. Sounds like there was really good support from everybody.” The hearing was continued.

“As with any project, there’s questions, there’s issues,” Ives said. “We’re happy that neighbors and people in the community are both supportive, but also sharing with us what their issues and concerns are.”

For more Andover news, follow @DustinLucaET on Twitter.