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Lynn YMCA groundbreaking attended by Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Thomas M. McGee

Lynn, Ma. 10-12-18. Governor Charlie Baker talks with some of the kids from the Lynn YMCA durng the groundbreaking ceremony. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — After four years of planning, developers broke ground on the $30 million Lynn YMCA expansion on Friday.

Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Thomas M. McGee were in attendance for the ceremony, along with state representatives Dan Cahill, Lori Ehrlich, and Donald Wong. Amanda Mena, Lynn YMCA member and “America’s Got Talent” contestant, serenaded the crowd with her rendition of “God Bless America.”

“I know you guys must be cold,” Baker said to the young YMCA members seated in front of him. “I’m sure you all felt the wind stop while Amanda sang, and that was because she just blew it away.”

The planned 70,000-square-foot complex is being built in front of the current YMCA. Set to open in 2020, the new building will have seven preschool classrooms, a 12,000-square-foot fitness area, a gymnasium, a teaching kitchen, a cafe, a 6,000-square-foot rooftop garden, and an aquatic center with a lap pool, learning pool, and splash pad.

“People love the idea of the building but what’s really important is what is going in the building and how we are involving STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education,” said Bruce Macdonald, CEO and president of YMCA of Metro North. “We are going to keep the old building and repurpose a lot of the space, even build a bigger music studio.”

To help pay for YMCA’s expansion, there was $21 million in New Market Tax Credits allocated by MassDevelopment, Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, Capital One, and Boston Capital Real Estate, $4.8 million from a MassWorks grant, and several seven-figure gifts from the Gerondelis Foundation, the Demakes family, the Van Otterloo family, and Stephen Hendrickson, and $10 million more in private donations.

MassDevelopment also issued a $27.7 million tax-exempt bond to help finance the project, which the YMCA will repay using future donations.

“This YMCA building was a guiding lighthouse for me growing up,” said Taima Walker, a former member and current employee. “Kids of the Y deserve this and the city will be better because of it.”

The vicinity surrounding the YMCA expansion is also home to St. Mary’s School, Lynn Tech High School, Washington Elementary School, and the upcoming location for the new KIPP Academy High School. The YMCA and the city are now calling the area the future Educational District.

Macdonald said the new building will help to reintroduce the YMCA community and it will no longer just be a “gym and swim.”

“This neighborhood is about to change in a dramatic way,” he said.

Even with a cold wind blowing through the crowd, the speakers did what they could to energize the mood with some laughs. The jokes amongst the many members involved in making this expansion happen were a hit with the anxious crowd. The ceremony ended with a number of people picking up golden shovels and tossing dirt to initiate the groundbreaking.

“Look, I make hot dogs for a living but I don’t want that written on my tombstone,” said Tom Demakes, donator and third-generation owner of Old Neighborhood Foods. “I want it written that we all helped the city of Lynn.”

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