The YMCA broke ground last month on the new YMCA Anthony Bowen, a modern Y facility being built as part of a larger restoration project at the U Street Corridor.

The YMCA, in partnership with Perseus Realty, plans to build a mixed-use residential and retail complex with a redeveloped $15 million Y facility on 14th and W Streets in Northwest D.C., in what planners have called the “New Y for the New U” initiative. The youth organization hopes to provide even better services and create a greater sense of community in the area.

“The YMCA has been an anchor in the Shaw-Cardozo neighborhood for more than 150 years,” said Carol Gregory, spokesperson of YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.

Founded by Anthony Bowen in 1853, the youth organization has always reached out to those who “have no sense of community or a safe place where they can connect with people who share their values and want to make a difference in the neighborhood,” according to the YMCA’s web site.

Located on the ground floor of the complex, the YMCA will include spaces for family wellness programs, a 25-meter pool for aquatic and swimming lessons for children and seniors and a rooftop terrace for neighbors to gather and socialize. In tribute to its unique history of being the first African-American Y in the United States, an interactive museum will be installed throughout the facility.

“We partnered with the YMCA to redevelop their existing space as part of a pilot program undertaken by the Y in efforts to capitalize on their real estate holdings to revitalize their aging facilities,” said Gabrielle Kornely, director of marketing and assistant project manager of Perseus Realty, LLC.

The new facility will be one more project undertaken in the U Street Corridor to reinvigorate the formerly decrepit and crime-ridden area and transform the neighborhood into an open and bustling community.

While the U Street area was marred by drugs and other crime when the YMCA first opened in the 1980s, it has undergone a major restoration since the early 1990s, with the addition of several upscale restaurants, bars and nightclubs. The corridor also has a rich musical history and is home to many of the district’s most famous jazz clubs.

“It will be a boon to the continuing revitalization of the U Street Corridor, and one in which we’re very happy to have spearheaded,” Kornely said.

Its new facilities will enable the YMCA to double its efforts in outreach. Aside from providing quality child care for parents and providing the financial services to afford Y services, there will be many opportunities to volunteer or become involved in the community.

“This new Y will allow us to host our nationally recognized youth wellness program, PHD [Physical, Healthy and Driven], which is successfully combating one of the fastest growing health crises in this country, childhood obesity,” Gregory said.

“As one of the largest social service agencies in the United States, the YMCA has always adapted its programs and services in order to remain relevant in the community,” Gregory said.

Currently, the YMCA Anthony Bowen is expected to be finished in 18 to 24 months by the year 2010, and the apartments in the complex ready by December 2010.

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