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YMCA to anchor Market Square Place

Pittsburgh Tribune ReviewBy Ron DaParma
Friday, June 1, 2007

The YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh will cut the size of its Downtown facility by more than half when it moves to the vacant G.C. Murphy store complex on Fifth Avenue on the edge of Market Square, officials said Thursday.
The nonprofit organization will lease space at the Murphy structure and the neighboring former D&K retail store building, with the move expected by late next year.

The two buildings are being developed by Washington County-based Millcraft Industries Inc. as part of its Market Square Place project, a $32 million complex that will include retail stores, restaurants and apartments.

In November, the YMCA disclosed to its nearly 2,500 full-time and 500 seasonal members that it planned to sell its seven-story headquarters building on the Boulevard of the Allies and seek another Downtown site.

“The YMCA has made a major commitment to the revitalization of the Fifth and Market District and to making Downtown a much better place to live and work,” said Lucas Piatt, vice president of Millcraft Industries.
“As the lead tenant in the Market Square Place project, the YMCA will provide a sought-after amenity to the residential aspect of the project and provide essential foot traffic to help support the additional … retail use within the development.”

The move will bring 200 staffers, including 50 new hires, and the 500 to 1,000 people who use the Downtown Y’s facilities each day into the heart of the city’s deteriorated retail corridor along Fifth and Forbes avenues.

In addition to its members, the YMCA serves hundreds of others through its wellness programs.

“In our new Downtown location, we will provide wellness and other services that match the needs of our Downtown members at a convenient central location,” said Dan Lebish, board chairman of the Downtown YMCA branch.

The facility at Market Square Place will include a 25-meter, five-lane pool, men’s and women’s locker rooms, wellness facilities with cardiovascular and strength equipment and exercise rooms.

However, it will not have the basketball court, running track and other court game facilities offered at the current site.

The YMCA signed a long-term lease at the Murphy site, but terms of the deal were not disclosed. Because it is a leased facility, the new YMCA will be fully taxable property, said Piatt and John Cardone, the Downtown Y’s executive director.

Over the years, the Downtown Y attempted to secure tax-free status for its land and building at 330 Blvd. of the Allies, which drew objections from private health clubs in the city.

The organization will not move from its current location until the new complex is ready, said Cardone. He said efforts continue to sell the building, which has been home to the YMCA for 20 years.

“Our new YMCA will not only help us serve our Downtown members better, it will also enable us to invest more in YMCA programming throughout the greater Pittsburgh community,” said Cardone.

The building will be substantially more cost-effective to operate, and Cardone said savings will be returned to the community in the form of scholarships and enhanced services.

The majority of the YMCA’s new facilities and offices will be on the second floor of the former G.C. Murphy complex, about 30,000 square feet of its 38,000-square-foot space, Piatt said.

However, its main entrance will be on the ground-level floor of the seven-story D&K building, across from PNC Financial Services Group’s Three PNC Plaza project under construction. The connection between the D&K and Murphy complex will be on the second level of the two structures.

The five floors above the Y’s facilities in the D&K structure will be developed as rental apartments. Other apartment units will be located on the upper levels of the former G.C. Murphy complex, which is a combination of several adjoining buildings.

The Piatt project is being built with the aid of about $6 million in state funds. Additional help is being sought in historic tax credits.

Possibilities for ground-level retail space include a high-end spa and salon, restaurants, clothing shops and a bank, Piatt said.

News of the YMCA’s decision was welcomed by Arthur P. Ziegler Jr., president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, which has been concerned about preservation of historic and architecturally significant structures Downtown.

“We’ve worked closely with the Piatts and their architect to ensure that the entire complex of buildings could be saved and made workable,” Ziegler said. “We’ve been pleased with the uses they are creating.”

YMCA on the move

New site

Location: Former G.C. Murphy complex and D&K Store building

Size: 38,000 square feet

Pool: 25-meter, five lanes

Facilities: Men’s and women’s locker rooms; wellness facilities, with cardiovascular and strength equipment and exercise rooms; whirlpool, sauna and steam room

Current site

Location: 330 Blvd. of the Allies

Size: 97,000 square feet on seven stories

Pool: 25-meter, six lanes

Not moving from old site: Gymnasium, racquetball courts, walking/running track

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

100 West Station Square Drive, Suite 450

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633