April 10, 2009
Since it opened three years ago, the North Albany YMCA has become a vital center for community life in a neighborhood that has little in the way of social or fitness services, community gathering sites, or activities for youth and a history of blight and urban decay. The Albany Housing Authority targeted the neighborhood for revitalization and renewal, identifying its 290-unit public housing development as a HOPE VI Redevelopment site. The cornerstone of this redevelopment: the YMCA.
With a focus on addressing systemic problems, the HOPE VI redevelopment called for the transformation of the public housing development into 80 two-family homes, the development of a community service center, the renovation of the area’s K-8 school, set-aside funds for the rehabilitation of private housing, and investment in economic development for commercial development and employment opportunities for area residents. The new YMCA was planned as a central component of this redevelopment because its famous “Y” brand recognition would promise stability and attract a diverse membership from nearby middle-to-high income neighborhoods. This in turn would both help change the area’s image and, with that full-paying membership, help support the branch’s financial viability. The Y was built using a mix of public and private funds, including the critical New Markets Tax Credit, and since its doors opened, it has realized its goals of attracting a diverse member base, and achieving the positive impacts envisioned for the renewal and revitalization project.