The YWCA's historic Downtown building readies for a major renovation-one that will better reflect the needs of women who seek help there.
After permanently closing the onsite fitness center and swimming pool Dec. 23-to the dismay of a few faithful monthly subscribers-the YWCA is preparing to begin a $20 million renovation of the historic Griswold Building. "It's really driven by the changing needs of our women residents," spokeswoman Patti O'Toole says. "In the turn of the century when it was built, this was one of the only fitness centers for women in the community. But now, women can do that in lots of different places, and we do have women that need to be served."
Opened in 1929, the Downtown building houses 33 low-income women residents in addition to 69 members of the Women in Numbers Growing Stronger (WINGS) program, who have a history of both homelessness and mental illness (70 percent of the women also have an addiction diagnosis). The total-building renovation will transform the current 102 dorm room-size residential units into 91 one-bedroom and efficiency apartments, eliminating the low-income housing so the WINGS program can grow. Meanwhile, the YWCA staff, residents and programming will move to a yet-to-be-determined location for the duration of the renovation. ywcacolumbus.org
The staff is creating programming to help residents get ready to move. "Moving is extremely stressful for anybody, so we're going to be putting in additional support for the women," Wagar says. They've also hired a relocation specialist who will help find housing for the low-income residents who will be displaced.
Administrators will be the first to move to the temporary location. "We'll be setting up shop right away and replicating exactly what we do here," Wagar says.
Over two to three weeks, the residents and residential staff will move, and renovations will begin. The ballroom will be moved to make way for new residential units. The gym space will be renovated to house administrative offices, though the organization must maintain the gym floor and basketball hoops to adhere to preservation requirements on the historic property.
Because federal HUD grants fund the YWCA's residency program, the organization has one year to complete the renovation and move the residents back to the Griswold Building. In addition to the new residential units, the updated building will feature an incubator space local entrepreneurs can lease as well as a new ballroom with a full kitchen.