The Darien YMCA is getting a major facelift, with an emphasis on preserving the environment, improving early childhood education and maintaining a strong relationship with the neighboring community. Executive Director Pat Morrissey is hopeful that the large-scale renovation, which began in February, will be completed by next August.
"We're doing it in phases because we want to keep school in session. Otherwise, we would be forced to close the school, and that's unacceptable," Morrissey said.
The first phase involves adding a new center for the gymnastics program, which in recent years has been held off-site at the Goodwives Shopping Center. The second phase involves rebuilding the Holly Pond Nursery School , which enrolls about 290 students.
"One important component is replacing older facilities with greener, environmentally friendlier facilities," Morrissey said. That includes installing new cogeneration technology that runs off natural gas instead of oil. "We're adding a micro-turbine, which is basically a huge jet engine that will simultaneously generate electricity and immense heat."
When the project was proposed about five years ago, neighbors opposed it at a number of public hearings. Residents feared the construction and new gymnastics center would increase the size of the YMCA's footprint in the neighborhood.
Morrissey said eventually people came around to the idea of the project. "I believe the community sees the Y as a place where people can come together, rather than as a nonconforming entity," he said.
Morrissey said many people in the surrounding neighborhood are members of the YMCA, and 20 percent of all students in the Darien kindergarten system are graduates of the Holly Pond Nursery School.
Construction on the first phase, which should be completed this August, started before all the funding for the project was completed. The YMCA has about $750,000 from fundraising in addition to $3 million of its own resources. Morrissey said he is confident the community will come out to support the project's completion.
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