Chinatown YMCA takes step toward facelift, expansion

The Chinatown YMCA received a big “yea” Thursday.

Plans to overhaul and expand the facility were unanimously approved by The City’s Planning Commission, prompting more than 100 supporters — many of them Chinese Americans — to cheer and share hugs and kisses inside the meeting chambers.

The $19.6 million project includes a renovation of the existing three-story building; construction of a new three-story 19,350-square-foot addition; and another four-story, 3,500-square-foot addition to the existing building.

Commissioner Sue Lee, a Chinese American who is employed by the Chinese Historical Society of America, described the YMCA as a “sacred place.”

“At a time where U.S. immigration policy prevented Chinese from coming to this country and prevented families from reuniting, the Y was a refuge,” Lee said during the meeting. “I think what we see today is a legacy of that community-building.”

The Chinatown YMCA opened in 1926 with a pool, locker room, exercise area, social room and hotel rooms, city documents show.

In contrast to the well-worn feeling of the building’s current facade, the new building will be marked by a bright and modern YMCA logo.

“I would like to see a little bit more fine-tuning of the architecture,” said commissioner Kathrin Moore, who described the illuminated logo as unnecessary.

An earlier proposal put the height of the planned building above 40 feet, which would have subjected it to city rules that restrict new shadows on parks and open spaces. The new plan does not include construction above 40 feet, according to planning documents.

The earlier proposal also would have required the demolition of the existing building, which was opposed by The City’s Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, according to planning documents.

The project will convert the existing 21 residential hotel rooms and 10 tourist hotel rooms of the existing building into 25 residential hotel rooms and related facilities.

jupton@examiner.com

Examiner Staff Writer Bonnie Eslinger contributed to this report.

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