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.
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