This afternoon I will be attending the grand opening of the shiny new Robert Lee YMCA building on Burrard Street in Vancouver. More about that event later this evening or whenever I can get near a computer.
7:45pm…I am home from the grand opening of the Robert Lee YMCA Building. I should have done my homework before attending this event; today was the V.I.P. opening and it was a veritable whose-who from Vancouver society. And then there was me standing there in my faded Levis with a shirt with baby puke on it. It also might have been nice if I had made the effort to shave my fuzzy face at least sometime this week. At least security did not try to throw me out this time…probably because I stayed away from the bar area.
Anyway…this is a magnificent building, and an incredible asset to the Westend community of Vancouver according to Spencer Herbert, MLA for the Westend of Vancouver.
Craig Sheather, pictured above, is the YMCA’s VP of Community Engagement and of course Spencer Herbert is the MLA for the Westend of Vancouver.
Now to back up a little, say to 1844 when the concept of the YMCA originated. The purpose of the “Y” was to create a place safe from unsavoury characters and unsafe streets. Sir George Williams started the idea to allow friendships and community to grow and develop.
In 1851 the first YMCA was built in North America, located in Montreal. Not long after that, in 1889 the “Y” came to Vancouver. Not until 1941 did the Y open in its current location on Burrard Street. It was open from 1941 until December 31st, 2006 when most of the building was torn down so that the new building could rise up in the same spot on Burrard Street. Most of the building except the original brick facade that adorns the new Robert Lee YMCA Building.
So why the “Robert Lee” YMCA? Because Bob Lee has been a member of the Y for 50 years. When he was 13 years old he walked over to the Y and took swimming lessons. Fifty years later he is still an active member and from those swimming lessons he learned about the value of community and the value of giving back to the community. He went on and became a very successful and respected businessman. Perhaps more importantly he continued to understand the value of giving back to the community. Bob Lee’s philanthropy was instrumental in seeing this new YMCA building come into existence. For that reason, the YMCA has honoured him by adding his name to the building.
The project was managed by Concert Properties and the actual construction of the building was done by Bosa Construction. Construction was done to the Silver level of LEED Environmental Standards. Heat for the building is supplied through city steam system operated by Central Heat Distribution.
My favourite part of the environmental standard is that the swimming pool water is UV filtered meaning they only have to use a teensy amount of chlorine in the water. When I walked into the pool area there was NO smell of chlorine in the air!!
Another nifty thing about the pool is that the floor in half the pool can be raised so that people in wheelchairs and very small children can safely use the pool. And even better, the entire pool deck is heated! No more climbing out of the pool and standing with frozen feet on wet tiles.
However, before you get to the pool, in the lobby of the Y is Licious Cafe. Not only does Licious offer healthy food choices at their on-site cafe, they also offer a healthy meal delivery service. These are delicious, nutritious foods that are tailored to individual needs. The meals are prepared fresh every day and delivered to your home. Licious Cafe also offers corporate and event catering for business lunches or what have you. The cafe appears to be a great fit for the building.
Speaking of food, the new YMCA has a beautiful healthy living kitchen area where community can gather and celebrate. There are three kinds of places in people’s lives: home, work and “other.” Starbucks has worked very effectively at framing themselves as the “other.” A place where you can go and hang out and relax. Well the people of Vancouver have a new alternative “other” place; the YMCA. You can attend a cooking class in the instructional kitchen or you can reserve an area for your own celebration. Top quality facilities are here.
However, one of the basic things that people go the YMCA for is the exercise facilities. And are they ever in for a treat! The state-of-the-art workout facilities are more than impressive. Each treadmill or workout station has an iPod station and TV built right into it. Something to notice about the new exercise facilities is the lighting; lots of natural lighting creates a welcoming space for all of the community members who want to exercise.
There is also vast array of free weights for people who like to use them.
As well as the workout room there are “flex rooms” that can be converted for any type of use; yoga, pilates, dance or the latest trend, cycle training. These rooms will be used according to what the membership desires.
The gymnasium is another marvel. Perhaps in recognition of the demographic of the clientele, the gym flooring is NBA quality with anti-vibration built into it to preserve the aged knees of the people playing basketball and other gym sports.
On the 6th floor of the building is the YMCA Coast Capitol Savings Early Childhood and Family Development Centres. This is the wonderland for the children. A Coast Capitol representative told me that, being a Credit Union, they share with the YMCA the appreciation for community. There are 69 fully licensed childcare spots for three separate age groups; 0 to 18 month olds, 18 months to 3 years and 3 years to five year olds.
Like so much of the rest of the building, the childrens’ facilities are very well thought through. Take for example the toilets for the little ones;
To understand how cute these toilets are I asked a kid to stand beside it. Both toilets are small, the one though was tiny!! So cute!!
As well as an indoor play area, there is an outdoors “green space” for the kids to play in even though the building is downtown on Burrard Street. There is a roof top outdoor area for the kids to play in. The little wooden place houses that the kids have to play in are tiny replicas of the surrounding buildings. This section of the YMCA was still under construction at the time of my tour.
The above photo is actually of the outdoor play area on a floor lower down in the building. It just shows how the downtown location did not stop them from creating an outdoor space for the community.
The key feature of the building that I appreciated was the amount of natural light that floods into the building. Also, you know how you often enter a building and only need to go up a floor or two but the stairs cannot be found? Or if you do find them they are like a room featured in the Spanish Inquisition? Dark and spooky with awful smells? Not in this building. Natural light floods the stairwells as you move up and down in the building.
This is obviously a building that a significant amount of thinking has gone into. Simple conveniences like a heated pool side floor, anti-vibration flooring in the gym, tiny toilets for little ones and so many more touches demonstrate a respect for the community that the building will serve. As Spencer Herbert, the local MLA said, “This YMCA is a place where community can grow and develop. It is a physical space as well as a place where emotional connections can grow in the community. This is a great asset for the Westend community.”
I could not agree more.
Disclosure: I received NO monetary or any other form of compensation for writing this piece. These are my opinions and observations of the new Robert Lee YMCA building.