The McGaw YMCA building at 1000 Grove St. (Google Maps)

The McGaw YMCA this week asked the City of Evanston for $3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to help renovate its single-room-occupancy residences.

The $12.6 million project has already received zoning approval from the city, and the YMCA is in the midst of a fundraising campaign with a goal of beginning construction by June 2023.

Monique Parsons.

McGaw CEO Monique Parsons said renovations to the nearly century-old facility would upgrade the rooms for 156 men who live at the Y, provide a new private entrance, upgrade restroom and kitchen facilities and expand space for programming and the program’s five full-time staffers.

Parsons said the staff provides wrap-around services to the residents aimed at helping them eventually move to permanent market-rate apartments.

The proposal calls for keeping rents at the Y at affordable levels for at least 30 years, but Parsons said the agency plans to keep them affordable beyond that, as long as there is a need.

A rendering of the appearance of a renovated large SRO unit at the McGaw YMCA.

Members of the Housing and Community Development Committee who reviewed the plans at a meeting Tuesday evening spent considerable time trying to establish whether the proposal fit within guidelines the City Council set earlier this year for allocating its $43 million in ARPA funds.

Once staff located a copy of the guidelines, they discovered that the requested funding level would fit within a guideline that calls for the city to provide no more than 25% of a project’s funding.

The City Council earlier this month approved two other ARPA grant requests — $2 million for Northlight Theatre, about 7.7% of the estimated $26 million cost of building its planned new home in Evanston, and $1 million for The Aux, about 13.7% of the estimated $7.3 million cost of creating a home for minority and women-owned businesses in a warehouse building on Washington Street.

The city’s housing and grants manager, Sarah Flax, said few other alternative government funding sources exist for the YMCA project because single-room-occupancy units don’t qualify for most state and federal housing programs.

Other potential sources, she said, like the federal Community Development Block Grant program, have prevailing wage requirements that would substantially add to project costs.

The committee directed staff to come up with additional detail on how the project would meet the Council’s ARPA guidelines and will continue discussion of the project at its next meeting on May 17.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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    1. I agree. At the latest Northlight production, Intimate Apparel, I asked several patrons what they thought about the move to Evanston. They, like I, were surprised at the $2 million gift w/out consideration for ease of parking and that the audience is primarily elderly, appreciating the close, free access for parking at Northlight’s current location. The services that the YMCA provides low to zero income men is needed and well used . We have Northwestern theater along with several smaller theater venues. I’d like to see upgrading the YMCA and its social services before giving so much to Northlight.

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