After more than five years of planning, the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh broke ground on the site for their new location in the Hill District. At the ground-breaking for the $12 million building Aug. 9, approximately 100 Hill District residents, past and present, as well as other community leaders, came out to celebrate the event.
“This is truly a historical day as we move on for our community, truly a great day,” said Aaron Gibson, executive director, Centre Avenue YMCA. “For years our community has really struggled. We’ve been promised a new building, we’ve been promised hope, but it’s never happened. But in the past month this community has made it happen.”
|THE WORK CONTINUES—Hill District community leaders, residents and stakeholders break ground on the new facility.
The morning’s guest of honor was Thelma Lovette, 94, for whom the new facility is being named. Beyond her many years as a civil rights activist, Lovette was also the first woman to sit on the boards of the Centre Avenue YMCA and the Greater Pittsburgh YMCA.
“The YMCA has always been an important part of the community because it offered programs for young men and women to teach them to care about themselves and our community,” Lovette said. “That’s why I’m so grateful that this is being built.”
Lovette, who moved to Arizona with her family a year ago, travelled to Pittsburgh with her daughter, Thelma Morris, to attend the groundbreaking. No matter how long they are away, both women said Pittsburgh would always be their home.
“All my mother has been able to say is isn’t that an honor, I’m so thankful. For her to be here at 94 years old, I’m so thankful,” said Morris. “When my mother talks to people, she tells them there’s no place like Pittsburgh, that’s my home, and for most of us, there’s no place like the Hill District.”
The new 43,000-square-foot building to be located on Centre Avenue between Addison and Elmore streets will have a computer lab, exercise facilities, a swimming pool, meeting rooms, a gymnasium and a variety of programs for children and families.
“Most people said why would you build another YMCA, you already have a YMCA. We recognized the needs of the community,” said Eric Mann, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh. “This doesn’t happen without cooperation from a lot of people. To raise $2 million in the middle of a recession was not easy.”
The Hill District’s current YMCA offers resident rooms, food pantries, youth sports and employment as well as other community services.
“In addition to the programs we will be having here, we’re also going to continue the services at the other YMCA,” said Tom Burley, board chairman of the Centre Avenue YMCA. “My understanding is we’re hoping to have the facility up and running in 14 to 15 months.”