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It'll be two years, but a new look to the Berkshire Family YMCA is on the way

PITTSFIELD — For much of the next two years, the Pittsfield branch of the Berkshire Family YMCA will be an active construction zone as the facility undergoes a $12.4 million renovation.

Officials for the nonprofit say the final product will be worth the wait.

On the other side of the project: an expanded child care center, modernized fitness center, and the county’s first public indoor walking and running track.

And with changes to the building’s floor plan will come changes to the facade as well. The facility’s 1980 brick addition will be opened up to the community with the addition of 12 new windows, which will illuminate the new walking track and a new basketball court.

Applauding that vision Wednesday were U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, and Mayor Linda Tyer, who were on hand for a groundbreaking ceremony at the North Street building.

“We’ve retrofitted this building to meet our needs for 135 years,” said Jessica Rumlow, CEO and executive director of the Berkshire Family YMCA. “It’s time now to streamline it.”

Allegrone Cos., the project’s contractor, began work Oct. 18 on what officials say likely will be a 15- to 18-month job.

The project will add an infant room, toddler room, gross motor skills room, library and sensory space to the child care center.

The expanding program means there is room for more kids and staff — seven infant spots, nine toddler spots and nine preschool spots will be added to the 75 children already getting their child care at the Pittsfield branch. To keep student and teacher ratios low, the Y plans to hire four more child care providers.

Under the new plans, the facility’s fitness center and basketball court will trade spaces in the building. The new fitness center — it will be outfitted with completely new workout equipment — will move to the Melville Street side of the building and sit over the expanded child care center.

The new 6,500-square-foot basketball court will move into the space above the building’s pool and be crowned with an indoor walking track.

Rumlow said the Y and Allegrone have settled on a phased construction plan to limit the inconvenience to members and students during the renovation.

The Y’s child care has been divided between the organization’s preschool center at Taconic High School and space in the United Methodist Church in Lenox. The Y’s basketball program — it typically serves 300 kids every year — has been moved temporarily to spaces at the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center and Berkshire Community College.

Allegrone has started work on the new fitness center. Once the new center is completed, the current fitness center will close and crews will begin work on the new basketball court.

Rumlow said that the facility expects to close the pool for about four weeks in order to repaint the ceiling, but that should be the only break in service while renovations are underway.

The project has been an ever-shifting goal post for the organization since 2017, when then-CEO and Executive Director Randy Kinnas proposed the first major update to the building in almost 40 years.

While the central proposal for new exercise and child care facilities has remained the same, much has been added to the project since Kinnas’ proposal.

The additions include making the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, upgrades to the men’s locker room, and asbestos and lead abatement throughout a larger section of the building.

As the project changed and grew, so did the price tag. The final project price is more than double Kinnas’ original $5 million proposal.

“We knew that the community couldn’t afford a $12.4 million project,” Rumlow said. “So, it was really important for us to be able to go for the state historic and new market tax credits and for all of those other additional funding sources.”

Funding the project is a community effort, with the $12 million coming from a variety of state and private grants, city money, community fundraising and new markets tax credits — a program that gives major investors a tax credit for investing in low-income communities.

Neal, who chairs the House’s Ways and Means Committee, said that the new markets tax credit is one tool to help move money that would have been headed to the Treasury into important community investments.

“[Tax credits are] how you use the tax code to allocate investment in initiatives you think that are worthwhile,” Neal said.

Tyer also announced that the city will kick in a portion of the nearly $41 million it is set to receive in coronavirus relief money.

“We believe so much in this project and the potential for the impact to our community that we’ve committed $250,000 of the American Rescue Plan to help fund this really essential and very exciting expansion,” Tyer said.

The Y has raised enough through grants and loans to cover the project costs. But, Matt Scarafoni, chair of the project’s Capital Campaign Committee and president and CEO of Scarafoni Financial Group, said that the larger goal of the Berkshire Family YMCA’s board is to finish the project debt-free.

To reach that goal, the Y hopes to raise more than $4 million over the next two years of construction.