WEST RIDGE — Efforts to reopen the High Ridge YMCA have taken a major step forward, as the federal government is allocating nearly $4 million for renovations.
The High Ridge Y, 2424 W. Touhy Ave.,will receive $3.75 million for a renovation, Rep. Jan Schakowsky announced. The money is included in this year’s federal budget and is part of more than $26 million secured for projects in Schakowky’s Far North Side and north suburban district, her office said.
Schakowsky said the High Ridge Y had a vital community function, serving people of all backgrounds. Her dog, Pippi, received obedience training at the facility, she said in a statement.
“I am ecstatic that I was able to secure funds to help bring the High Ridge YMCA back to life, and I look forward to visiting the site once it reopens,” Schakowsky said.
The funds will help overhaul the West Ridge facility, which closed two years ago and has recently gotten a second, albeit temporary, life as an emergency shelter for migrants.
Officials with the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago stopped short of saying the funds will ensure the facility’s reopening to the public, but they said the organization is working on a plan for the building’s future.
“Y leadership continues dialogue with the High Ridge Coalition, including members of the West Ridge community and public officials, about long-term next steps for the High Ridge YMCA,” Katy Broom, spokesperson for the organization, said in a statement. “While there is still a lot of work to be done on the site, the Y is optimistic for its future, and we look forward to working with our partners to develop a plan for the High Ridge YMCA.”
Specifically, the money will go toward roof and masonry repairs, heating and cooling upgrades and a new sprinkler system, according to Schakowsky’s office.
Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th), who voiced support for saving the facility after its closure, is “completely in favor or reopening the High Ridge Y,” said her spokesperson, Yisrael Shapiro.
“We are grateful for having received this funding and look forward to working with YMCA and the community to get the facility back open,” he said.
The High Ridge Y closed in January 2021 after nearly 70 years in the neighborhood. Y leadership cited the facility losing half its members since 2013 and operating at a loss even before coronavirus as the reason for its closure.
News of the closure hit hard for some neighbors. A candlelight vigil was held upon its closing, and a group called the High Ridge Coalition was formed to retain the building’s use as a community asset.
In a community meeting with neighbors and elected officials, YMCA leaders said it would give the neighbor group three months to find a partner to buy and operate the facility. The High Ridge sought owners and operators for the facility, including the Park District and affordable housing developers.
The existing building needs about $3 million in maintenance, according to the YMCA.
But the building was never sold. In September, the YMCA building began being used as a temporary shelter for migrants being bused to Chicago from Texas.
The building will continue to be used as a shelter “for the duration of the humanitarian emergency,” the YMCA spokesperson said.
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