When the Harvey E. Najim Family YMCA opens in spring 2017, the Southside community will have a new place for its children to play, exercise, and learn.

The project was funded with $2.5 million from the 2012 Municipal Bond and $2.5 million from donations through the YMCA of Greater San Antonio, including $1 million from the Harvey E. Najim Family Foundation. The facility will feature the main fitness center, complete with exercise equipment and group exercise areas, a parking lot, and a 5,000 sq. ft. outdoor covered gymnasium for basketball and other activities.

“I think we’ve made a believer out of many people, (including) the voters because they voted for this in the 2012 bond,” Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) said during the groundbreaking ceremony for the facility on Thursday, adding that the new YMCA will help improve the quality of life on the Southside and close the gap in life expectancy that separates the Southside from the Northside.

“Because of this hard work, (the Mission Reach) will continue to be a destination for families from inside and outside the area,” Viagran said. “Our World Heritage status has been transformative.”

City Manager Sheryl Sculley praised the efficiency and focus of the City of San Antonio and the Transportation and Capital Improvements Office (TCI).

“They have more than 900 projects throughout the city underway as we speak,” she said. “I want to thank the Council members for listening to the community and advocating so strongly for redevelopment projects in this area.”

Sandy Morander, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater San Antonio, reiterated the importance of building the facility near Mission Branch Library and Mission Marquee Plaza.

“This is a joint commitment in making sure that every kid has a healthy start to a beautiful life ahead,” she said. “We’re delighted to share in this partnership with the City. Our neighbors, the library, continue to be a moving force. And to all of our contributors and neighbors that have joined us thus far, there is so much more to look forward to.

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Harvey Najim admitted that, at first, he didn’t know the full range of programs available through the YMCA.

“Then I discovered, over the years, what a great job they do with child care services and early childhood education,” he said. “I am really excited, that on this side of town next to the Missions, that these families will get excellent child care services and education for those kids. That’s what’s important.”

The YMCA will round out the offerings of the Mission San José area, which already has Mission Branch Library, Mission Marquee, the Mission Reach, and the Mission itself. Mission Branch Library was a 2015 recipient of the AIA/ALA Library Building Awards for combining modern architecture with the historic sensibilities of its location. Acquired by the city in 2007, Mission Marquee, formerly the Mission Drive-in Theater, offers year-round screenings of recent and classic films that are free and open to the public.

The plans for the YMCA have received better reception from the community than the scrapped “Roosevelt Apartments” development that was proposed last year.

Western view of the Harvey E. Najim Family YMCA. Rendering courtesy of YMCA.
Western view of the Harvey E. Najim Family YMCA. Rendering courtesy of YMCA.

Top image: Hardhats are passed out for the new Southside YMCA groundbreaking ceremony.  Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

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New Southside YMCA to Open in Spring 2017

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James McCandless

Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.