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YMCA moving to Market Square – New facility in former G.C. Murphy is cornerstone of renewal

Pittsburgh Post GazetteFriday, June 01, 2007
By Mark Belko,
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Millcraft Industries wanted foot traffic to help support its revitalization of the old G.C. Murphy’s store. The YMCA wanted a more central location Downtown.

It proved to be the perfect marriage.

The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh announced yesterday that it will open a new Downtown facility in the Murphy’s building as part of Millcraft’s $32 million Market Square Place project.

With the decision, the YMCA plans to sell its current Downtown building on the Boulevard of the Allies, but won’t be moving out until its new facility is completed. There will be no interruption in services or programs, said John Cardone, vice president of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

“This is a seamless transition. There won’t be any break in services at all,” he said.

The new facility will be 38,000 square feet. The Downtown YMCA will occupy about 30,000 square feet of the old Murphy’s building and become the lead tenant of the Market Square Place project, which also will feature shops and apartments. It also will use about 8,000 square feet of an adjacent property that’s part of the Millcraft project.

At the new location there will be a 25-meter, five-lane swimming pool, men’s and women’s locker rooms, wellness facilities with cardiovascular and strength equipment and exercise rooms, and a multitude of services and programs, including nutrition, smoke cessation, weight management, physical therapy and cardiac rehabilitation.

Programs and services will be spread over three floors, from the basement to the second floor, rather than seven as at the current location. The new facility also will house Activate Pittsburgh’s staff and wellness programs.

Mr. Cardone said the YMCA had been looking for a more central location Downtown and has been seeking to consolidate space and programs. He said it has found that people generally won’t walk more than three blocks to an exercise program. Navigating seven floors in the current building also has proved to be inconvenient for members.

“Quite frankly, it’s really just too much space. The way it’s designed, it’s really broken up,” he said.

Moving to the Murphy’s building more in the heart of the Downtown business district should make it more convenient for existing members, some 2,000 to 2,500 strong, and help recruit new ones.

Mr. Cardone said the YMCA also is excited about being part of the resurgence in the Downtown business corridor, with the Murphy’s project, the construction of the Three PNC Plaza skyscraper and the conversion of the Lazarus-Macy’s store to office space and housing.

For Millcraft, the move will provide a steady diet of foot traffic, about 1,000 people a day, and a great amenity for residents of the 50 loft apartments it is planning as part of the Murphy’s conversion, said Lucas Piatt, vice president of real estate.

“It’s really going to activate Market Square and the whole Fifth and Market district,” he said.

Even with the YMCA, Millcraft will have 27,000 to 30,000 square feet of ground-level space to offer retailers and others. It sees that as potential homes for restaurants, spas, salons, and lounges. It also has plans for a market catering to the needs of residents and office workers.

The YMCA hopes to open the new facility in late 2008 or early 2009. Millcraft plans to begin taking reservations for apartments by mid-2008. A non-profit, the YMCA pays property taxes on a small portion of its current building. The Murphy’s building will become taxable once Millcraft completes its purchase. The move of the YMCA won’t affect that.

The Downtown YMCA expects to add about 50 to its 150-member staff with the move.With the sale of the Boulevard of the Allies building, about 30 administrative staff members for the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh will move to another location.

(Mark Belko can be reached at or 412-263-1262. )

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