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YMCA Design Rejuvenates a Community

By Dan Heumann

September 5, 2016


Every project has a purpose. For some projects, the purpose is more meaningful than others. For the new Winston Family YMCA situated neatly on the budding Riverwalk in the Riverside community of Jacksonville, the purpose is certainly consequential.

After nearly five years of design and construction, the new, $21 million, 72,000-square-foot facility eagerly opened its doors to the First Coast in August 2016. The Y is hoping to extend its membership reach with the new state-of-the-art facility, which is a manifest of the Y’s commitment both to rejuvenating a community and to helping reduce chronic illness and improve health.

With such significant weight, it seems only fitting that the project also be somewhat a conundrum for the RS&H project team that provided architecture, interior design, and engineering services for the recently completed LEED-certified building. Dan Heumann, architect and project manager, said the most challenging aspect of the project was the spatial and technical coordination of multiple disciplines and systems in such a complex facility.

The architectural massing involved the juxtaposition of a large elliptical drum into a three-story rectangular volume.

The structural components of the building included more than 400 steel piles, precast concrete wall panels, double tees, brick faced concrete tilt walls and steel columns, beams and bar joists. Mechanical engineers were tasked with designing a mechanical system that included a combination of gas-fired variable-volume rooftop units for the main building; variable-refrigerant-flow split systems for exercise areas; and an outside air preconditioning unit that includes enthalpy wheel for energy recovery from facility exhaust air. Additionally, there is a gas-fired heating and ventilation unit for the pool area. Electrically, power and data needed to be routed to more than 80 pieces of exercise equipment.

With such high expectations on the facility to help redevelop the river-front property along the St. Johns and to enhance the lives and health of the First Coast community, the new facility is replete with special design features that the RS&H team had to take into consideration. The first floor features a chapel, two indoor pools, a Healthy Living Center, and community kitchen and café. The second floor houses the gymnasium, group exercise studios, and a wellness floor with a running track that follows RS&H’s curving, glass-front design that overlooks panoramic views of the St. Johns River and Downtown Jacksonville.

The new YMCA has had an immediate impact on the surrounding communities. An iconic landmark on the Riverwalk, the facility is home to the nation’s first Health Living Center, which is a community of private-sector healthcare entities, including Brooks Rehabilitation, Florida Blue, and Baptist Health Care. While the partnership between these organizations and the YMCA exemplifies the Y’s mission to improve the wellbeing of North Florida residents, the design team’s final product represents the efforts to revitalize a community through this flagship facility.

Topics: Architecture, News, Corporate Facilities

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About the Author

Dan has more than 25 years of experience serving as project designer, architect, and manager for churches, medical buildings, schools, clubhouses, recreation facilities, office buildings, warehouses, and residential projects.

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