YMCA Plans Downtown Center Inside New Apartment Building

The YMCA near Pritzker Park would anchor a new mixed-income building proposed for the corner of Van Buren Street and Plymouth Court. Developers still need to secure financing for the project.

Melody Mercado  Sep 26, 2023


DOWNTOWN — A 14,000-square-foot YMCA will debut Downtown inside a mixed-income apartment complex potentially breaking ground in 2025.

The $102 million building is in partnership with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Studio Gang and nonprofit mixed-income housing developer The Community Builders.

The project, dubbed Assemble Chicago, was originally proposed in 2021 by Studio Gang and The Community Builders. It won Chicago’s C40 Reinventing Cities competition and therefore the rights to redevelop city-owned land at the corner of Van Buren Street and Plymouth Court.

The original proposal calls for a net-zero carbon, 20-story, mixed-use structure with 207 residential units and incomes ranging from 30 to 80 percent of the area median income. That’s $33,090 to $88,250 for a family of four.

The project still needs to secure financing, according to Will Woodley, Midwest director of development for Community Builders.

Community Builders and the YMCA also are partnering on the upcoming Sankofa Village Wellness Center in West Garfield Park. Building on that working relationship, Community Builders leaders said they decided to bring on the YMCA as its anchor tenant for Assemble Chicago.

“It ended up being a perfect opportunity for us to partner because something that we want to ensure is that the Y is as accessible to everyone as it possibly can be. And this location, it’s like a dream,” said Swathi Staley, chief community investment officer and general counsel for the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.

Next to Pritzker Park, 310 S. State St., the site is located near several CTA train and bus lines, making it accessible to public transit users across the city, Staley said.

The YMCA portion will include a half-court basketball court, fitness center, a drop-in child care center and space for youth and violence prevention programming. Additionally, there will be a Rush University System for Health wellness center located on the main floor.

The YMCA plans to use the nearby park space for indoor and outdoor programs like yoga, cooking demonstrations and Halloween events for young people in the Loop, Staley said.

“We want to make sure that it’s accessible not only to adults who are Downtown working but also youth on the weekends who want to play basketball or kids who want to attend summer camp and all of that. So definitely think it’s an opportunity to bring more youth back to the Loop in a good way,” Staley said.

How much money developers can finalize for the project will ultimately determine how many apartments will be in the building, Woodley said.

“Structured financing and permanent, long-term financing. Those two issues significantly contribute to challenges in affordable housing just as it does in the regular market. We’re working through that. But that gets back to how much funding we put together will impact the final amount of apartments,” Woodley said.

High interest rates and construction costs are also a factor that could limit the number of apartments, Woodley said.

The proposal outlines a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments. All will be affordable to a variety of income levels from minimum wage to those making up to $90,000 a year, developers said.

Units will be equipped with in-unit washers and dryers, ample in-unit storage, full-size appliances and nooks to support working from home, Woodley said. The building will also have an amenity lounge, terrace and onsite package and bike room.

Woodley said he anticipates construction to begin in 2025. Once they are ready to break ground, Community Builders would buy the land from the city for $1.

“It’s going to be a terrific amenity for all of Chicago. It’s going to help activate this part of the Loop … I think hopefully we make it clear that the Loop should be a really strong mixed-income neighborhood that’s affordable and has a wide range of housing types,” Woodley said.