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After 36 Years, The YMCA Is Coming Back To Downtown Kansas City

Courtesy BNIM
A rendering of the planned YMCA addition behind the Lyric Theater in downtown Kansas City.

After a 36 year absence, a full-service YMCA will be returning to downtown Kansas City — this time in the historic Lyric Theater at 11th and Central.

The Missouri Development Finance Board on Tuesday approved up to $4 million in state tax credits, a move that will allow the YMCA to complete its fundraising for the project that's been in the works since 2012.

The YMCA redevelopment plan — designed by BNIM architects — calls for the historic facade and lobby of the vacant Lyric Theater building to be retained. An addition with pool, fitness center, indoor track and gym would be built behind the building.

Market studies indicate the new facility, which would take up to 2 ½ years to build, would attract 5,000 members and serve up to 15,000 people. The downtown YMCA also would serve as a community center.

David Byrd, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, said a partnership between the city, the Truman Medical Center and the Downtown Council were instrumental in achieving the goal of a large downtown YMCA.

"We're thankful to the city, the Truman Medical Center and the Downtown Council for partnering with us, and the Missouri Development Finance Board for their confidence in this project to transform the community," Byrd said in a statement.

The YMCA already has raised $7.1 million in private donations for the project. The $4 million in state credits will allow it to raise an additional $8 million in private pledges.

The $32 million project also is receiving $16.9 million from an existing tax-increment financing plan established for the downtown area where the Lyric is located.

Credit Kevin Collison for KCUR
The Lyric Theater in downtown Kansas City.

The historic Lyric Theater lost its major tenants, the Kansas City Symphony and Lyric Opera, when the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2011.

"This is going to be a transformative project for our downtown," City Councilwoman Jolie Justus said in a statement.

The planned YMCA was championed early on by the late Phil Kirk, the former chairman of DST Realty, who played an key role in downtown revitalization in the 1990s and early 2000s. Byrd previously has said the new YMCA will be named after Kirk.

Downtown Kansas City had a seven-story YMCA at 10th and Oak streets from 1907 until 1981. The building was torn down in 1999 to make way for Ilus W. Davis Park.

The YMCA has operated a 20,000-square-foot facility in the Quality Hill area of downtown since 1989, but it’s geared toward adult fitness activities.

Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.

Kevin Collison, a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3, writes about downtown Kansas City for his website CityScene KC.
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