LAWRENCE — City officials and YMCA leadership gathered in a new welcome center and other updated spaces at the Lawrence Y on Thursday to celebrate milestones in a public campaign to renovate and expand the century-old staple in the city.

The YMCA built the Lawrence Street building in 1910 and it has been there since. The capital campaign organized to pay for the $5.9 million renovation is called Here for Good.

The campaign's most ambitious element will be an 8,000-square-foot glass building at the corner of Lowell Street, which will replace the squash and racquetball courts with a wellness center.

"It's going to make this Y shine like no other urban Y in any other urban city," said Mayor Daniel Rivera, who was named honorary chair of the Here for Good campaign Thursday.

Construction on that building has not begun. But Thursday, Rivera cut the ribbon with members of Y leadership on the new welcome center, a community room, and a multi-purpose fitness studio, which are now complete.

The welcome center features a modern open space to house the front desk, while highlighting the architecture and moldings of the historic building. 

Gary Morelli, president and CEO of the Merrimack Valley YMCA, an association that includes facilities in Lawrence, Methuen and Andover, said they have raised $2,845,660 of their total goal, mostly from grants and institutional donors in the community.

"This is the largest amount ever raised in support of (the Lawrence YMCA)," said Morelli, which he said will enable the Y to better "address the health challenges in our community."

According to information provided by the Y, Lawrence has a childhood obesity rate of 44 percent — the highest in the nation.

This renovation will affect almost all of the laundry list of programs and facilities in the building, including expanding the capacity from 6,000 member visits monthly to 7,500 and increasing childcare capacity from the 186 children currently served to 240 children, among other things.

The glass building was inspired by a similar-but-larger one added to the Andover/North Andover YMCA on Haverhill Street in Andover last year, which was part of a $23 million renovation that doubled the size of that facility.

At the Lawrence Y, the only elements of the renovation visible from the street will be the new glass building and an alley the YMCA shares with the YWCA next door, which will be landscaped. The building's century-old brick exterior cement trim, roofline dentils and ornate brickwork details typical of the era will be preserved.

For more information about the renovation and expansion or to make a donation, visit http://mvymca.org/lawrenceexpansion

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