YMCA of Greater Toronto has launched the most ambitious expansion so far of its health and fitness centres, announcing it will build and open at least two in east Toronto by 2020.
What’s being called “the largest endeavor in the charity’s history” begins with a campaign – called Strong Start, Great Future – to raise $250 million.
The money is for 10 YMCAs in 10 years, though only five projects, “each in different stages of development” were announced this month.
“They’re going into neighbourhoods where these types of programs and services are under-represented,” said Celecia Partap, a YMCA spokesperson, who said these “centres of community” will be places where people can meet their friends in a safe environment and feel comfortable working out or in workshops.
The YMCA in a release also said the centres will “enable neighbourhoods to focus on the long-term health of children, teens and young adults,” including inactivity and obesity.
A survey shows nine in 10 young adults in Greater Toronto “lack daily physical activity,” and one in four adults have a “weak sense of belonging,” the United Way-supported charity said.
Aside from the campaign to cover its capital costs while expanding from eight to 18 fitness centres, the YMCA will launch a Strong Kids Campaign for another $40 million to offset membership costs, particularly to help lower-income children and families join, Partap said.
The first of its new East Toronto locations may be in Scarborough’s Bridlewood neighbourhood, where Toronto council approved a $29-million community hub in 2011 on the site of the former Timothy Eaton Business and Technical Institute on Bridletowne Circle.
The YMCA would own the hub, a new building on land purchased by the City of Toronto for $6 million, and is expected to house 11 community agencies and facilities for The Scarborough Hospital for at least 20 years.
The United Way is set to contribute $2 million and hospital officials have said the building could be open by the summer of 2015.
Another project would convert a building in the Beach where YMCA operates a nursery program for toddlers into a centre with a full range of programs.
The property at 907 Kingston Rd., five blocks west of Victoria Park Avenue, must be rezoned before the conversion, but the YMCA is confident it will be, Partap said.
Other locations named in the January announcement are on Cherry Street in the West Don Lands, near Spadina Avenue and Queen Street in downtown Toronto and on Kipling Avenue in Etobicoke. Partap said the remaining five will be named over the next few years.