In 'serious need:' URA to consider $1.5 million loan for North Side YMCA as part of $22.5 million in upgrades

Allegheny YMCA

The 96-year-old Allegheny YMCA on the North Side is in bad shape. There’s no central air conditioning in the summer. Twenty-one rooms can’t be used because of water damage. The building’s lone elevator doesn’t work. And it’s not accessible to those with disabilities.

But help may finally be on the way.

Action Housing has teamed with the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh to develop a $22.5 million plan to overhaul the six-story structure at 600 W. North Avenue.

And on Thursday, the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority board is expected to vote on whether to authorize a $1.5 million housing preservation program loan to help fill a gap in the financing needed for the project.

In a summary to board members, the URA stated that the Allegheny Y, dedicated in 1927, was in “serious need” of capital improvements.

Because the building’s electrical system can’t support portable air conditioning units, the facility has no cooling in the summer. Significant water damage has rendered 21 of the 105 single rooms “uninhabitable” and the existing elevator was decommissioned years ago. The building’s mechanical and plumbing systems also are outdated and must be replaced, according to the authority.

To rectify the situation, the Y and Action Housing have come up with a plan that involves the replacement of all mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems and the installation of central air conditioning and a new sprinkler system.

They also are proposing massive renovations to the single room occupancy units. Those improvements include new flooring, painting, and ceilings in the rooms and in the corridors and replacing shared bathrooms with private ones.

With the upgrades, the number of units will drop from 105 to 89 in order to prevent a reduction in square footage in each, the URA stated.

Other renovations involve a new resident lounge and new laundry facilities, trash rooms, and janitor’s closets on each floor.

On its website, the Allegheny Y said the rooms are important because they represent 20% of all existing single family occupancy units in the county.

Of the 84 men listed as residing in the units, the average age is 54; 50% are African American; 64% work, though most at low-paying service industry jobs; 18% are individuals with disabilities; and 79% make less than 50% or the area median income, according to the Allegheny Y.

The Allegheny Y leases the rooms for $95 a week. On its website, it stated that affordable housing is a pressing issue on the North Side.

“Over the last decade, revitalization of the Central Northside has taken hold and housing in the lower Northside and Mexican War Streets area has become increasingly unaffordable,” it stated. “The result has been the displacement of residents, many of whom are considered working poor. This project supports the ongoing development of the area while providing affordable housing in an ideal location with excellent access to major employment centers, transit routes and a walkable commercial corridor.”

Action Housing and the Y are hoping to use historic and New Markets tax credits to help finance the improvements. Other sources include state housing and county community development block grant funds, a Federal Home Loan Bank grant, and a Hillman Foundation grant.

Amenities currently offered by the Allegheny Y include a cardio/wellness room, a strength training room, group exercise, a cycling studio, after-school programming, and a summer day camp.

The Allegheny Y loan is among $3.5 million the URA board will consider for housing preservation programs in various parts of the city.

Also Thursday: The board will be updated on a request for qualifications, to be released Nov. 13, for the redevelopment of the John P. Robin Civic Building at 200 Ross Street; and a request for proposals, also to be released this month, for the sale and redevelopment of the URA-owned 62nd Street site in Lawrenceville.

Mark Belko: