The expansion of the Benton Harbor – St. Joseph YMCA succeeds by creating an engaging new entrance, light-filled community spaces for the building, administrative offices, and new spaces for its children’s care and preschool programs.
The existing building’s main entrance was oriented away from much of the facility’s parking and not easily visible when entering the site. By reorienting the entrance towards an important site entrance, the new addition and its dramatic cantilevered roof create a single, identifiable front door to the building and celebrate to its community the new and innovative direction of this YMCA.
Beyond the entrance lobby lies a light-filled, open community room where seating and a coffee bar welcome members before and after their engagement with the facility and its programs. With their adjacency to reception and staff offices, these lobby spaces preserve the welcoming character of the existing facility while providing locations for flexible and vibrant interactions between visitors, members, and staff. Engagements are enriched by increased natural light and views outside, reduced congestion and simplified circulation and way-finding through the building.
Beyond the reception and secure children’s drop-off areas, the new project creates distinct and special places for children that are visible from the lobby but which don’t distract from the full range of activities and programs offered by the YMCA. With limited space and budget, flexible use of project spaces was a priority. A new quiet activity area designed for students during the afternoon is easily converted to a public conference room for evening use.
Since its completion, membership has increased, and the YMCA is about to embark on a transformative project to modernize its locker rooms to better serve families, increase their accessibility, and plan for a future aquatics expansion.
Project completion: December 2015
Project size: 9,100sf addition / 14,200sf renovation