Community members joined officials from the Y of Central Maryland and Baltimore County government Wednesday morning to break ground on a new $13 million Towson Family Center Y on the center's Chesapeake Avenue campus.
The groundbreaking kicked off a construction process that has seemed close for years, but run into a number of holdups along the way.
"It is not an easy project, and a Y doesn't get built in a community like this…unless the community wants it to get done," said John Hoey, president and CEO of the Y of Central Maryland.
It took a late concession by a vocal pocket of the community who had opposed some aspects of the project, but after an agreement was reached in early October, construction crews have finally begun work on the property.
"This is really going to be a fantastic makeover for the Y, and it's a good thing, because this really represents a reinvestment in the community," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said. "To build a state-of-the-art facility right here in a community is something very special."
Kamenetz said that while he understood some of the neighbor's apprehensions when plans were announced, he called the investment an "affirmation of the vitality" of the West Towson community, one that will ultimately make the neighborhood stronger.
The new 48,000-square-foot building will feature a lap pool and family fun pool, an atrium with a fireplace, a larger fitness center, more studios and community space and a gymnasium, Hoey said.
"We've studied Ys across the country," Hoey said. "We've studied buildings that serve communities that are not Ys. We've learned a lot over the last several years — this Y will embody all the best of what we know a Y can be."
Additionally, once the project is completed, Hoey said, the Y would feature more green space than with the previous building, and Kamenetz said the county is in the final stages of preparing a grant application seeking funds to purchase a portion of the Towson Family Center Y property.
"Our goal, of course, is to establish a joint use agreement between the Y, which will be a very unique partnership to allow public access for rec council programs to the gym and to the pool," Kamenetz said. "We really look forward to that partnership as well."
"It's very important that we establish relationships and partnerships with private sector, with nonprofits, with other entities, to make sure we provide recreation for our citizens," said Fifth District County Councilman David Marks.
Marks also thanked Kamenetz for his support on the recently-approved state funding to maintain the West Towson Trail, which runs along the Towson Family Center Y property.
Towson Y board member John Holman said the increased outdoor space, as well as the building's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification for energy efficiency and green building practices, play into the long standing plan for a greener, walkable Towson.
"The new green Y became an integral part of that plan for a better Towson," Holman said.