There is new life for what developers describe as the last major vacant building in downtown Granite City. A St. Louis area nonprofit has acquired the former Tri-City YMCA with plans to convert it into affordable apartments and an arts hub.
Rise Community Development has closed on financing for the building, which has been vacant for 14 years. Plans call for nearly 40 apartments in what will be called Edison Avenue Lofts and more than 5,600 feet of commercial space.
There will also be a large studio area for artists and other residents. Artists will also be able to use two recording studios and a gallery.
Developers consider the project to be another element in the transition of downtown Granite City.
"They’ve built a new movie theater downtown. They’ve got this new focus on the arts. Our building also has a focus on the arts and artists," said Rise Real Estate Development Director Mark Stroker.
He added the renovation should help with affordable housing in the area and improving the vitality of the city’s core.
"It really does kind of have those dual purposes," Stroker said.
The project includes a focus on housing for veterans who want to live downtown. Several county agencies and not-for-profits have made commitments to support the space, which is expected to include art therapy and housing assistance for veterans.
4 Years in the Making
The idea to tackle the long-vacant building stemmed from a meeting roughly four years ago.
Rise officials were speaking with city leaders when the focus shifted to the former Y building.
"That’s sort of the great white whale," Stroker said.
Considering the resources available, he thought it could be easier to tackle the renovation project instead of trying to build something new on available land.
"It took a number of applications. It took a lot of planning on the part of Granite City," Stroker said.
"But we were able to bring together a vision—with the help of our architect and, quite honestly, with the help of the folks at Granite City—to put a financing package in place and a program in place to bring that YMCA building back to life."
There are several funding sources for the project. They include tax credits for affordable housing and historic rehabilitation. Funding is also coming from Madison County Community Development and the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
Renovation work is about to begin. Stroker said it should be completed in about a year.
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