YMCA at The Club at Shannondell Proposed

Many residents spoke in favor of having a new state-of-the-art YMCA, just not in Audubon's The Club at Shannondell.

Nearly every seat was filled at the July 26 special meeting of the Lower Providence Board of Supervisors, as residents awaited to hear a presentation on the potential construction of a YMCA at .

George Marks of Kramer Marks Architects gave the presentation, the majority of which focused on highlighting the highly aesthetic and state-of-the-art designs of newer YMCA facilities.

“If you’ve been to an old YMCA, what we’re here to talk about tonight is something totally different,” Marks said.


West Norriton’s Loss is Lower Providence Gain?

According to Marks, the Phoenixville-based Freedom Valley YMCA had approached the Audubon Land Development (ALD) in April for the possibility of opening a new YMCA at the Lower Providence location.

Currently, the township owns the property, located at 2750 Egypt Road in Audubon, and is managed by the ALD. The property has the General Washington golf course, outdoor swimming pool and is the site of .

Marks said that the YMCA had considered the Lower Providence property in January of this year, as well as on the grounds of Markley Farm tract in West Norrition. However, according to a , in March, the YMCA was denied a zoning appeal that would move the project forward in West Norrition.

Should Lower Providence Township approve the project, the YMCA would co-locate the property with the Club at Shannondell.

According to Marks, the property would retain its restaurant, as well as a 9-hole golf course and outdoor swimming pool.

He said the property would gain a family golf center, similar to Woody’s or Freddie Hill, with a miniature golf course, driving range and possible batting cages.

As for the new YMCA facility itself, Marks said the building would initially be an 85,000 square feet full-service facility, with outdoor pools and a master plan for future expansion, possibly up to 120,000 square-feet.

“The idea is to create a true community center,” Marks said.


The New YMCA Designs

Marks highlighted a particular aspect of new YMCA building designs, which are the lobbies.

“We call it the ‘hotel lobby,’” Marks said.

According to Marks, the Freedom Valley YMCA at The Club at Shannondell would feature an approximately 10,000 square-foot lobby, which would be considered community space before YMCA members reached the reception area to access the facilities.

“In essence, creating a recreational community center in Lower Providence Township without the initial cost or ongoing operating costs to the township,” Marks said.

Such member facilities would include a Wellness Center, two full basketball courts, as well as locker rooms for families and exclusive locker rooms based off of age and gender.

There would also be indoor and outdoor pools, a second-floor running track, as well as various health-related classes available.

Marks particularly noted that the façade of the new YMCA would match the aesthetics of the surrounding area. [See photo gallery for examples of local YMCA facades].

Marks added that a Freedom Valley YMCA at The Club at Shannondell project would generate approximately 120 construction jobs and nearly 400 permanet YMCA jobs.


Public/Private Partnership Proposal

Marks said he hopes to begin construction by the fall of this year and have a grand opening by late fall of 2013. He later added that the YMCA, a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, would completely fund the project through $20-million in bond financing, which would be split between the Audubon site and another location.

If the board of supervisors approves of the proposal, in order for the project to proceed, Marks said Lower Providence Township would enter a “Public, Private Partnership.”

The township would have to pass legislation for an overlay zoning district or a text amendment creating a new zoning district for the property, as well as grant various waivers for site approvals. The township would also have to enter into a lease arrangement with the YMCA and extend the ALD lease terms to be parallel with the YMCA terms.

Finally, the township would have to contact Montgomery County in order to return money used to make the property area open space or find a substitute property to designate as open space.

It was this last point that solicited several comments from residents at the July 26 meeting.

“Why do you want to tear up a nice golf course that people enjoy, why do you want to bother people that enjoy the swimming pool at Shannondell, when you got a nice big property with all kinds of beat up trailers in there?” Thomas Borai, who is also the township’s Zoning Hearing Board vice chairman, asked Marks. “You could beautify the entrance to Audubon.”

Borai, along with at least ten other residents expressed concern over relinquishing the designated open space area. He and other residents suggested that the YMCA be built in the Valley Forge industrial complex area, which is in close proximity to The Club at Shannondell property.

In response, Marks explained that it would not be cost effective to purchase and convert pre-existing buildings, and would be counter-productive to the way the YMCA now designs its new facilities.

“We believe it’s the best site in the area for this facility,” Marks said, after the presentation.

Other residents took issue with the potential for increased traffic along Egypt Road.

“Egypt Road is already busy,” said one resident, who has lived directly across the street from the Shannondell property for 11 years.

In response, Marks said that the YMCA would participate in both traffic and improvement studies. 

"It's obviously something that will require more looking into," Don Thomas, vice-chair of the township's board of supervisors, said, closing the special meeting.

[What are your thoughts on having the Freedom Valley YMCA at The Club at Shannondell? Take our poll and share your comments below.]

Intheweeds August 24, 2012 at 04:05 PM
If short-sighted NIMBY's successfully fight this location, Lower Providence will lose out. This facility will never target the Industrial Park for the laundry list of reasons Feodor articulated above. Lower Providence owns this land. It isn't really "open space", though, considering there is a fee-paid golf course on it. The proposed Y will take up exactly the same footprint of land as the General Washington Community Center did on the parcel for over 40 years. The Y will be a galvanizing resource for this community. It will have programs open to ALL residents, at a price point far below the $50 it takes to play one round of golf. It is located pretty much in the middle of the township, making it convenient for the families and seniors of this township to get to. The proposal is not eliminating any "real" open space, but adding open space that the taxpaying residents can actually use, and providing a tangible benefit for the community. If NIMBY's like Stacie successfully spread their FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt), and scare the Freedom Valley Y away, it will be a sad, dark day for Lower Providence.
Intheweeds August 24, 2012 at 05:43 PM
1. What part of "it would not be cost effective to purchase and convert pre-existing buildings, and would be counter-productive to the way the YMCA now designs its new facilities." do you not understand? The Y is not going to the Lower Providence Industrial Park. Non starter. Not going to happen. Not an option. 2. The original GWCC facility was NOT where the current Chadwicks and pool are. It was more in the middle of the property, and was torn down for more grass and a parking lot. They rerouted the golf course when the huge GWCC was torn down. The current practice putting green was actually part of the course as the green for a hard par-3 in fact. The GWCC Pool was adjacent to this hole. The current facilities were built on unused, open land. The neighbors got significant design input and landscaping, as the new facilities were much closer to their homes. 3. There are not "better" locations. There are certainly different options. But, if we want a $20 million+ investment in Lower Providence that provides a world-class community resource that does not also increase my taxes, this is a great location for it to be. West Norriton could have had this. I want to ensure that Lower Providence does not lose it as well.
Laura Winslow September 06, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I'd like to see a bike path be required for this site, to allow residents of LP access to this site by bike, particularly along Crawford road. My problem with the repeated suggestion of the Industrial Park site is that the Y is for people, not business, and should be closer to residential neighborhoods. So add bike/walking access so car traffic is not the only access to Y. Thanks LP Township!
Mohandus Frieri September 12, 2012 at 09:27 AM
The current General Washington/Shannondell facility once housed an ice skating facility, tennis courts, a large public pool, an 18 hole golf course, basketball courts and a banquet facility. It most certainly drew many more residents than it does now. It has been a recreational facility for nearly 50 years. The industrial park is not an option, for many reasons already mentioned. You can't put a YMCA on Route 422 and the NIMBY's seem to want to continually want to move public facilities somewhere else. Enough with the stalling, the bogus reasoning, the gee, maybe we can locate it somewhere else where it is someone else's problem. That's exactly what the miserables in West Norriton did. They're going to wind up with a hundred single homes or a Section 8 housing project. The next developer is not going to cower down, but rather challenge the township with an expensive legal battle.
Intheweeds September 12, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Could not agree with this post more. The General Washington parcel is the perfect location for a community resource like the YMCA. It would be a huge asset for the entire community - families, children and seniors. The open space matching issues can be figured out. Let's also focus on the needs of Lower Providence. I, for one, would not like to let a $20 million community resource walk away from this township. Especially when my tax dollars do not have to pay for it.


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