A $5 million “investment in the future of our kids” should be ready by September as the Greater Lowell YMCA embarked Friday on a renovation and expansion project to its Thorndike Street building.
Executive Director Kevin Morrissey welcomed Lowell officials and others “to celebrate our investment in the facility and our children.”
When completed the project will mean 12,000-square-feet of renovated and added space providing “a state of the art learning center for kids,” Morrisey said.
A $1 million grant from the state Department of Early Education and Care got the project off the ground.
The state agency visited Lowell a year ago to evaluate the YMCA’s facility and programs before making the award.
“It really felt great here,” said Theresa Jordan of the Children’s Investment Fund, which oversees the grant for the state.
State Sen. Edward Kennedy, state Rep. Tom Golden and Mayor John Leahy shared memories of the YMCA growing up in Lowell. Golden and Leahy both learned how to swim at the Y pool. Kennedy also learned to swim at the Y, but the old Y on Merrimack Street, which was located between Old City Hall and what is now Enterprise Bank.
The new YMCA opened 45 years ago, so Kennedy took some ribbing from Golden and Leahy.
Golden called the Y “a real asset for the community” and added that it is a safe place for the children of Lowell. Leahy agreed and remembered coming to the building when it first opened.
City Manager Eileen Donoghue reminded the audience that the YMCA is more than 150 years old. “It’s been a labor of love from then until today,” she said, adding, “The YMCA is more important now than ever.”
While construction is underway, the early childhood programs and day care have been moved temporarily offsite. Windows in that area of the building are boarded up and the interior has been gutted. The gym and other areas at the front of the building are still open, but signs of construction are still evident.
Project Manager Robert Samaral of Kaplan Construction was on hand outside to answer questions. He has done a lot of work for YMCAs in the state, including several in Lawrence. But this is his first project in Lowell.