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YMCA Conversion: Returning to its Roots


For more than a century, young men seeking safe, affordable housing often found a home at the local YMCA. The Young Men's Christian Association began overseas in London in 1844. Retired Boston sea captain, Thomas Valentine Sullivan, noticed a similar need to create a safe "home away from home" for sailors and merchants in the United States. Inspired by the stories of the Y in England, he led the formation of the first U.S. YMCA at the Old South Church in Boston on December 29, 1851.

YMCA housing began in the 1860s to give young men moving to cities from rural areas safe and affordable lodging. Facilities included gyms, auditoriums and hotel-like rooms. Chicago's Farwell Hall, the first known YMCA dormitory, was completed in 1867. Between 1922 and 1940, YMCA accommodations grew from approximately 55,000 rooms to more than 100,000, more than any hotel chain at the time.

The Sioux Falls YMCA, a four-story building located at the corner of Minnesota Avenue and 11th, was constructed in 1921 and expanded in 1969, serving the needs of the Sioux Falls community. "I'm not sure when the dormitory closed, but it was definitely before my time," said YMCA President Mike Gulick (pictured). As times changed, so did the YMCA's roles in their communities. Today, YMCAs are community, recreation and educational centers.

However, seeing a need for affordable housing in Sioux Falls, the YMCA is partnering with Lloyd Companies of Sioux Falls. Together they are undertaking a massive remodeling project, turning part of the four-story Y building into 52 apartments. Units will be income-based and will range from efficiency to four bedroom apartments, allowing the Y to continue to serve the community.

To make the project feasible, the Sioux Falls YMCA Housing Initiative and Lloyd Companies were awarded $556,700 in Housing Tax Credits and $668,780 in HOME funds. The renovations include installing an elevator to service all four floors. Part of the building will remain a YMCA community, recreation and education center.

"The conversion of the Y building to affordable housing is a good thing for the community and a good reuse of the YMCA building, bringing it full circle to provide safe and affordable housing to Sioux Falls citizens again," commented Gulick.