After more than 90 years in the South Chicago neighborhood, the YMCA of Metro Chicago is closing its 91st and Commercial Avenue location, citing decline in Y membership and enrollment in early childhood programs.
Add to that about $3 million in renovations needed, and it just wasn’t worth it to keep the facility open, YMCA President/CEO Dick Malone told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“The YMCA of Metro Chicago has been here for nearly 160 years, serving the community from the city all the way into the suburbs. As an organization, we’re doing an assessment of all of our current locations to make sure that we have in our portfolio Y’s that are meeting the needs of the community, but that are also able to maintain a sustainability over time,” Malone said.
The location’s 714 members, eight fitness staffers and 10 education staffers were informed Wednesday of the impending shuttering Oct. 31.
The Y is housed in the basement and on the first floor and part of the second floor of the four-story building that also houses 101 units of federally subsidized senior citizen housing on the second- through fourth floors.
The Y will continue to operate the housing, and its Youth Safety and Violence Prevention program will remain housed in the building for now, until an alternate site is found.
Twelve children enrolled in a Head Start program with capacity for 40 were transferred to other nearby Head Start programs. And 20 students in an after-school program with capacity for 27 were referred to other area programs, Y officials said.
Loss of the Y facilities — sited across from the South Chicago Library Branch — will be felt. It’s one of the few remaining anchors in a community experiencing vast demographic shifts in the past decade and currently grappling with poverty, unemployment and high crime.
South Chicago saw a 26 percent decrease in population between 2000-2014. Chicago Public Schools data showed a 10 percent drop in K-first-grade enrollment last year, and projects an additional drop of 13 percent this fall. Unemployment, which stood at 22 percent in 2015, was nearly twice the city average, not including the 42 percent of the population not in the labor force.
But the Y’s closing is not the first resulting from the systemwide reassessment, Malone said. The Y Sports Complex in suburban Naperville closed last month for similar reasons. And Y Head Start programs are being consolidated, including the Logan Square YMCA First Lutheran Head Start is being transferred this fall to the McCormick YMCA.
“Essentially, we have been looking at how we can best serve our community, reassessing the place-based strategy,” said Ravi Hansra, Y senior vice president of learning, evaluation and community impact. “The idea now is we would look to partner with other community nonprofits, and determine what our sliver of services should look like in relation to the larger ecosystem of existing support.”