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Greenwich YMCA Construction Kicks Back Into Gear

GREENWICH, Conn. – Construction has resumed at the YMCA of Greenwich after a three-year hiatus while the organization got its finances back on track.

“We’re just thrilled her at the Y to have this project finally going again," said Charlie Leigh, interim CEO of the YMCA. "This place will hopefully be a gem to the community when we’re all done.”

Work was stopped three years ago when a mechanic’s lien was placed on the YMCA, which owed $6 million to contractors. About 40 percent of the building has been closed off since then. Work began earlier this month after the YMCA restructured its debt, paid off all mechanic's liens and formed an agreement with Worth Construction to complete renovations.

Construction is expected to be finished by the end of September. Some of the new additions will include improved access; elevator service to all floors; a reopened indoor running track; new locker rooms; new restrooms; a relocated and improved reception area; an ability to expand child-care services; and a large community meeting room for seminars, lectures and events.

Over the past 18 months, the YMCA raised $6 million in new capital to reduce its total debt to $23.5 million. This reduction was achieved through balancing its operating budget and reducing costs, getting donations and community support, as well as securing a $3.45 million loan from the First Bank of Greenwich. The YMCA reached a repayment settlement with JPMorgan Chase, which had loaned $20 million to the organization for renovations. The funds have allowed the YMCA to settle its obligations.

“Once we had the ability to talk to our banks and everyone we owed money to in terms of construction, the banks gave us an agreement that would allow us to take on additional debt. And the contractors took haircuts on what we owed them,” said Leigh.

Plans had called for an underground parking lot on nearby Mason Street and a bigger gymnasium, but the high price tag forced the board eliminate this phase.

“I have to give a great deal of credit to Charlie and his team,” Jim Cabrera, chairman of the board of the YMCA, said in a statement. “They have worked tirelessly over the last few years to bring the Y’s finances in line and create a realistic plan for the future.”

With more space and more programs, the YMCA plans to hire new staff. “We’ve brought our budget in line by keeping our staffing tight, but we know it’s not a long-term solution as the building and membership both grow,” Leigh said.

To raise funds, the YMCA is kicking off its annual appeal, hosting a June 18 golf outing and planning a January 2013 gala. Also in the works is a three-hour marathon challenge for board members to collect sponsors. Last year, the marathon raised $85,000. This year, the YMCA is hoping to raise $100,000.

“We don’t plan to have the same thing happen again,” said Leigh. “We still need to do some fundraising to start servicing that debt.”

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