Affordable apartments planned in the YMCA building in downtown Columbus
A Columbus-based housing company plans to redevelop the historic YMCA building downtown, which has sat empty for months.
Woda Cooper, which develops affordable housing across the country, plans to buy the building at 40 W. Long St. from Columbus Downtown Development Corp., which acquired the building in March for $1 million after the YMCA moved the last residents in. .
Woda plans to renovate the building into 110 to 120 apartments, called The Lofts at the Y, designed to be affordable to those earning 30% to 80% of the area median income.
“We wanted someone who could figure out how to convert them into apartments, while keeping them affordable,” said Amy Taylor, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Taylor said Wooda presented the best proposal to redevelop the building.
“They had to have the desire to preserve the building, and the ability and experience to know how to do it,” Taylor said. “They have a proven track record.”
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Jonathan D. said: McKay, Woda’s vice president of development, said Woda plans to apply this month for low-income tax credits to help finance the project.
If financing is secured, Woda plans to purchase the building at the end of 2024 and begin construction in early 2025, with the goal of finishing construction by the end of 2026, MacKay said. Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor Woda disclosed the purchase price.
While the details of the project still need to be worked out, Taylor said Woda expects to keep most or all of the building, including the athletic space, which could be used for tenant amenities.
“They plan to keep a large portion of the common areas, including the gym, for shared space and amenities,” Taylor said.
YMCA officials announced in 2019 that they would close the building, which at the time housed 400 residents in single youth dorm-style rooms, making it one of the largest remaining residential YMCAs in the country. Residents were moved to other low-income housing in central Ohio.
The seven-story, 235,118-square-foot building was dedicated on January 13, 1924. The building, rich with ornate decoration, was designed in the Jacobean Renaissance style, according to the Columbus Architectural Book. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, and this year it made the list of Most Endangered Sites in Columbus.
“It is described as castle-like, with stone buttresses, battlements, belt courses, mantles, and mortuaries,” according to Columbus Landmarks. “Its interiors retain many original elements, including polished wood paneling, built-in bookcases, fireplaces, pointed-arched doors and leaded glass windows within the first floor social spaces.”
Despite its stunning exterior, the building faces significant barriers to redevelopment such as a lack of bathrooms and parking, and the potential removal of lead paint. Additionally, drop ceiling ductwork was installed in the hallways, reducing the ceiling height to approximately 7 feet.
“Yes, it will be complicated, but it is an important part of the character of the neighborhood,” Taylor said. “It’s a beautiful historic building.”