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Tolleston Opportunity Campus projected to break ground in Gary in spring 2025

In World
May 14, 2024

Plans for the $30 million Tolleston Opportunity Campus featuring a new YMCA in Gary are moving forward with a goal of breaking ground on the project in March or early spring 2025, officials with the project recently announced.

The Tolleston Opportunity Campus will expand between 60,000 to 70,000 square feet and house resources from the Crossroads YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Northwest Indiana and Methodist Hospital, said Crossroads YMCA CEO Jay Buckmaster.

The hub would be built in the current John Will Anderson Boys & Girls Club Gary location at 2700 W. 19th Ave., Buckmaster said, with a remodel of the Boys & Girls Club space and then demolition of other parts of the facility for a new space.

The funding for the project is divided between the city, The Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation and the state. The city’s funds match a $10 million pledge from the White Foundation and a $10 million Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative grant from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

The Gary Common Council invited representatives from the entities involved with the project to its May 8 meeting for an update on the project.

The building concepts show space for a lobby in the center with space for Methodist, a fitness area, studios, a family pool, a family gym, locker rooms, two gymnasiums, two indoor tracks, childcare, a therapy pool, a kitchen and a cafeteria area, teen program spaces and youth program spaces.

Methodist Hospitals CEO Matthew Doyle said the hospital system will have a health care clinic and medical billing office in the building, with potential for a small pharmacy.

“We see this project as a foundational project — a transformational project — within Gary and certainly a concept project that can be taken to communities throughout the country. These types of partnerships with three significant non-for-profit organizations that come together should be a model that’s utilized in other communities,” Doyle said.

When creating the building concept, Buckmaster said the organizations involved spoke with other organizations that have built a shared space and learned that the biggest benefit would be to have one lobby that connects the space rather than a separate lobby for each organization within the building.

“We were committed that when we walked in this was going to be the best living room in Gary. These partners were going to be all seen when you walked in and the access was going to be that community feel,” Buckmaster said.

Earlier this month, Buckmaster said two requests for proposals went out for a construction manager and for an architect on the project. The proposals are due May 31, he said, and decisions will be made in late June.

“Then we’re off,” Buckmaster said.

The architectural phase of a project typically lasts 9 to 12 months, Buckmaster said, but because the organizations have put in a lot of work already to create building concept designs, this project’s architectural phase will likely move more quickly.

With a groundbreaking scheduled for about March 2025, that would give construction crews 21 months to build the building before the December 2026 deadline to spend the READI funds, Buckmaster said.

The goal is to open the facility at the end of 2026, he said.

Once built, Buckmaster said members of the seven Crossroads YMCAs will be able to use the new facility and, likewise, anyone who becomes a member at the Gary YMCA facility will have access to other Crossroads YMCA facilities.

Council President Tai Adkins, D-4th, asked for the organizations to come back before the board with an update on how the members are ensuring that the project won’t overlap in services provided by the city’s Hudson-Campbell Sports and Fitness Center and the YWCA Northwest Indiana, which the city supports financially.

“It is important for us to protect our existing infrastructure that we have here that has been beneficial to our community,” Adkins said.

Council Vice President Lori Latham, D-1st, asked what plans were in place to ensure the building will remain operational if membership comes in low. Buckmaster said the organization is working to secure an operating endowment to keep the building needs funded.

“Throughout the Crossroads YMCA organization as a whole, some carry others. I think that’s part of our mission overall at the Crossroads YMCA is that some carry others,” Buckmaster said.

Latham also asked if agreements were in place to ensure that all three organizations remain tenants of the building for years to come.

“I am concerned with making sure you all are a tenant forever, or for as long as we can keep you here,” Latham said.

Doyle said agreements have been signed by all three organizations.

“We see this as a transformational project in the city that we’re based in, Gary. What’s best for the community is best for business when we think about Methodist Hospitals,” Doyle said.

akukulka@chicagotribune.com

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