A Partially Abandoned Mall Is Transformed into a Community-focused, Multi-generational Facility

Honorable Mention, Adaptive Reuse

What began as a desire to expand, enhance and provide facilities that are more efficient for members of the John E. Alexander South Wood County YMCA, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., ultimately resulted in a much broader catalytic project driven by the YMCA’s mission to support the health and wellness needs of the greater south Wood County region.

Through the planning process, the Y evaluated and explored numerous partnering opportunities, ultimately determining that partnering with the Boys & Girls Club of the Wisconsin Rapids Area would result in the community’s largest provider of youth development services. The YMCA also collaborated with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to develop a community-focused, multi-generational facility. The project team, including Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc., identified and generated plans for an adaptive reuse of a failing, partially vacant and centrally located municipal mall property, further enhancing the value of the project in the community.

PHOTOS: C+N PHOTOGRAPHY INC.; BEFORE EXTERIOR JCPenney PHOTO: Google Earth; OTHER BEFORE PHOTO: Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc.

The design features a central mall-like corridor providing a seamless connection between the development’s new and renovated spaces while simultaneously highlighting the Y’s key amenities to entice prospective new members. Floor to ceiling storefront windows, inside and outside the building, showcase the center’s natatorium, gymnasium and fitness center. A primary entrance at one end of the corridor greets Y members and families while a secondary entry point at the opposite end provides secure access to the Y’s early learning center. Each entry has dedicated parking and drop-off areas. Respite spaces throughout the corridor facilitate socialization and connection among members and staff.

The project realized substantial value and savings through adaptive reuse of the mall’s existing facilities, including building shell, foundations, cladding and roof. Further economic enhancements realized by the project include reduced site preparation and improvement costs, including utility feeds and sewer laterals, as well as salvaged pedestrian sidewalks and parking area sub-surface materials.

The existing facility includes administration offices; fitness; childcare; early learning center; a food preparation and demonstration kitchen; kids adventure center; VA clinic; and the Boys & Girls Club facilities, which feature a teen area, multipurpose rooms, a variety of classrooms and quiet areas and spaces to support STEM, arts and music education. The YMCA’s wellness center, group exercise studios, gymnasium, locker facilities, natatorium and central circulation corridor are all new construction. The Y’s second floor includes a walking track, which surrounds the perimeter of the gymnasium space, and additional fitness spaces that separate the high bay gym and natatorium structures. Demolishing several existing facilities made way for the new construction.

All of the spaces are designed with great detail and focus. Input was gathered from the community, as well as staff relative to the application of materials, lighting design, acoustical control, and maintenance and safety. Floor to ceiling glass storefront windows are utilized on the building’s exterior and interior to showcase environments while allowing daylight into most areas of the facility and improving views in and out. Bright and vibrant colors were applied to provide bursts of color energy to align with the motivational branded graphics throughout the facility. Products used are extremely durable with low-maintenance requirements to enhance return on investment and provide long-lasting solutions.

“Reusing a mall is so laudatory. This is an answer to ways to reinvigorate older mall properties that are less vital in communities throughout the U.S. The natural light and exterior connections are appreciated.

Brett Baba, co-founder, Graham Baba Architects, Metamorphosis Awards Judge

The $28.5 million project utilized fundraising as the primary capital-generation device, as well as new market tax credits. The project broke ground in August 2018, continued construction through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and opened to members June 1, 2020. A month after opening, 419 new memberships had been sold and the facility was averaging 130 percent of normal visits at a time when other YMCA’s experienced a 50 percent or more drop because of COVID. The facility has been a beacon of hope for many in the community and a hub for supporting youth, adults and families in their quest to improve spirit, mind and body.

Retrofit Team

METAMORPHOSIS AWARD WINNER and ARCHITECT OF RECORD, DESIGN ARCHITECT, INTERIOR DESIGNER AND LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc.

STRUCTURAL, CIVIL, ELECTRICAL, MECHANICAL, PLUMBING AND FIRE PROTECTION ENGINEER: Harwood Engineering Consultants

CONSTRUCTION MANAGER: Miron Construction

AQUATIC CONSULTANT/ENGINEER: Water Technology Inc.

Materials

SOLID SURFACE: Wilsonart

METAL WALL PANELS: Larson by Alucoil

ROOF SYSTEM: Versico Roofing Systems

SKYLIGHTS: Versico Sunpath Tubular Skylight

ACOUSTICAL CEILINGS: Ultima from Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions

WOOD ATHLETIC FLOORING: Infinity Wood Floors

OPERABLE PARTITIONS: Hufcor

TELESCOPING BLEACHERS: Interkal

PLAYGROUND EQUIPMENT: PlayPower

SCOREBOARDS/TIMING SYSTEMS: All American Scoreboards

LOCKERS: Am-Finn

SHOWER/TOILET PARTITIONS: Special-Lite

POOLS

ACCESS RAMPS/STAIRS AND LADDERS/ GRAB BARS: Spectrum Aquatics

BULKHEADS, HEATERS, SANITIZATION SYSTEMS AND STARTING BLOCKS: Neuman Pools Inc.

CHEMICAL CONTROL SYSTEMS: BECS Technology Inc.

CLEANERS/VACUUMS: Sta-Rite

DECK/BASIN SURFACE AND GUTTERS: Paddock Pool Equipment Co.

FILTRATION SYSTEMS: Neptune Benson Inc.

WATER PLAY FEATURES: Vortex

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