By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
The YMCA of Austin has purchased a 9-acre site in Four Points with plans to redevelop the multi-million dollar project after finding out what the community wants in a local YMCA.
“We’re building based on what we hear from the community and then we will have a better sense of the construction timeline, but I would say it’s going to take a significant part of 2023, possibly into 2024,” said Kathy Kuras, president and CEO of the YMCA of Austin. “Of course we will work as expeditiously as possible.”
Kuras invites the Four Points community to “dream with us”.
“What do you want to experience as a family, an individual, a group of friends? If we can learn that, we can create it,” Kuras said.
The site and its 33,000-square-foot building was home to Children’s Learning Adventure child care center for five years before it closed during the pandemic. The two-story building was completed in August of 2016 in the Trails at 620 and closed in 2021.
The property at 8124 RM 620 was listed for sale in 2021. A Y colleague noticed and shared with the Y board’s Facilities & Growth Committee, which came out to look at it.
In June 2022, the YMCA of Austin closed on the purchase of the property. YMCA is pouring millions into the project with the site purchase and future renovations.
“Especially with construction costs today, I can’t say too much about the renovation cost right now other than we will know that once we put the project plan together based on what we hear from the community,” Kuras said. She joined the Austin Y in February, 2021, as the first woman to hold the CEO position in the organization’s 65+ year history.
This fall and winter, the Y will engage local residents to gather input on the needs of the community in order to guide redevelopment of the property. Assessments will be taken to determine what services are most needed by the community.
Typically YMCAs offer health and wellness programs for all ages and places to exercise, afterschool and summer camp programs, youth and adult sports, swim lessons and more. Financial assistance is offered to members who qualify.
The YMCA will conduct a “virtual open house” at www.FourPointsYMCA.org concurrently with an open house event on the property, which will be in late October. Additionally, a focus group is to be put into place likely in late October.
The YMCA will then develop a plan for the new facility and begin fundraising efforts to renovate the building into a YMCA.
Reflection of the community
As a volunteer-led nonprofit community enterprise, each YMCA is designed to reflect the unique character of the community it serves.
For example, the Austin Y teams with the Latino Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin to offer ¡Salud, Salud! which is a bilingual diabetes management program offered at the East Communities and North Austin YMCAs.
The Y partners with Austin Health Commons to host Racial Healing and Transformation Circles at its TownLake, Northwest and Southwest Family YMCAs.
It partners with We Are Blood to host quarterly blood drives at all YMCA of Austin locations.
Each Y Center is led by a board of managers composed of civic and business leaders from the surrounding community.
“We are going to always seek feedback from the community in terms of bringing a YMCA to a community,” Kuras said.
In Four Points, a large portion of the classrooms from the former daycare can be used with very little change.
“The Y has very high quality class offerings in early learning,” Kuras said. Other YMCA sites have preschools, and this site will likely offer that as well, she said.
“As we learn more from the community, we will know a little bit more about what exactly the community wants,” Kuras said.
“The YMCA focuses on all ages, everyone from kids to adults and seniors and families, we want to have a lot of family activities here,” Kuras said.
Health and wellness experiences are a large part of Y offerings. Officials will wait to hear community feedback on what to keep or not. For example, the existing kid-size bowling alley will be revamped but the kitchen may be something to keep.
“It’s a teaching kitchen. If we find from the community that they would really love to have something like that with amazing chefs and have some wonderful programming around that, (that’s something we’d do),” Kuras said.
“That’s why we’re not going to start renovating until we really understand what people want,” she said.
In addition to the playground, about 22,000-square-feet of outdoor space will also feature new offerings.
Would the community like to have some pickleball courts, basketball court, and/or a splash pad and picnic tables, Kuras asked.
“Once we learn more from the community about what it wants, then we will hire an architect and we’ll begin designing and thinking through everything and then from there will select a builder and then we’ll begin construction,” Kuras said. Some of the Y might be open while other parts are being renovated.
“The best way to get a YMCA in the community is with partners,” Kuras said. For example, the North Austin YMCA was created in partnership with the city of Austin, the city built it and the Y manages it. The Hays Communities YMCA in Buda was created through a partnership with the City of Buda, and the Y is managing it.
Across the United States, most YMCAs get built with some level of a partnership.
“For this YMCA, because the building already exists, and we will renovate it versus starting from scratch, we will use a slightly different process to seek partnerships during the renovation phase,” Kuras said.
History in Four Points
Although the Four Points Y building purchase moved fairly quickly, it is the culmination of research and planning that has taken place for nearly a decade (see the timeline).
In 2014, a petition was circulated requesting that a YMCA be constructed in West Austin. The West Austin Chamber and District 6 Austin City Council representative got involved, and not long after that a steering committee was formed.
Kuras noted there are several local residents who have been champions of a Four Points Y from the beginning, including developer Pete Dwyer and Don Christian, president and CEO of Concordia.
“The YMCA is a welcoming, safe space to practice healthy habits to build and work towards fulfilling your potential best version of yourself,” Kuras said.
YMCA at Four Points – Historical Timeline
In late 2014, the YMCA of Austin received a Change.org petition requesting that a YMCA be constructed in West Austin.
In spring 2015, the Y commissioned a resident survey and began a community dialogue. The West Austin Chamber surveyed 1,000 residents. Of the respondents, 988 expressed a strong desire for a community recreation facility with community use space. Based on this feedback, the YMCA of Austin decided to explore the feasibility of expanding its mission into West Austin.
In 2016, the Y convened a steering committee to identify unmet community needs.
In 2017, the Y continued its research and due diligence, surveying the broader community to gauge interest in other services such as a library. During this phase, the Y also conducted market research to affirm that the Four Points region would be an ideal location for a new Y center.
In 2018-2019, the Y collaborated with City of Austin District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan on a Quality of Life Task Force created to broaden citizen input and involvement. Community interest in having a Y in Four Points registered at 90%.
In 2021, the property at 8124 RM 620 was listed for sale.
In June, 2022, the YMCA of Austin closed purchase on the property.