Park South Family YMCA renovation delays blamed on city’s permitting process

By Lynn Pearcey,

October 11, 2023

South Dallas

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The Park South Family YMCA  has officially closed its door to renovate. 

Last month, South Dallas residents and community leaders gathered for a prayer breakfast to celebrate the promise of a new facility.  Neighbors praised and sang in reverence to new beginnings. Every seat in the gym was filled.

South Dallas residents and Park South YMCA members gather in the gymnasium for the last time before they say goodbye to the Y on Sept. 8, 2023. The Y will be demolished and rebuilt with an upgraded look and brand-new amenities for the neighborhood. Photo by Lynn Pearcey

While the mood was celebratory, the day wasn’t without concerns. Park South Board member Shanay Wise questioned why the $15 million renovation project was moving at such a slow pace.  

Wise says the Park South YMCA was supposed to close in June so construction could get underway quickly. 

“Acquiring the necessary permits from the City of Dallas slowed progress tremendously. The city was experiencing a serious backlog, which kept us from getting the ball rolling,” said Brandy Perryman, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of YMCA Metropolitan Dallas. “Now that we have those necessary components, including permits, in place, we’ll be able to aggressively move forward and bring the vision to life.”

The building is over 55 years old, and removing asbestos is also an issue.  “Asbestos removal is a large part of the demolition effort, which is set to begin within the next 2-3 months. Securing that one [permit] was the first step in the process we needed to get things moving.”

Some community members were skeptical of Perryman’s explanations for delays. 

“I think race and location were both contributing factors to the constant delays we’ve seen,” says Keri Elliott, a Group X Instructor at Park South YMCA. “When the decision-makers look at this location, they see it sitting in an underserved community, and they’re fearful that we won’t be able to maintain it like YMCAs in the more upscale areas. So, from my perspective, that’s why they’ve been so hesitant to make the investment and move the project forward.” 

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Texas State Representative Venton Jones speaks at the breakfast gathering in the Park South YMCA gymnasium before they officially close the building on Sept. 8, 2023. Photo by Lynn Pearcey

Wise says she also believes race was a contributing factor in the delay, however she doesn’t think it’s the only factor. “In this particular instance, I’m not ready to couch the delays entirely under the heading of race. I think a lot of it has to do with the zoning and permit process challenges we see with the City of Dallas.”

As community members walked around the YMCA looking at blueprints on the new facility, they were excited about the new amenities and upgrades.

 “The pool on the first floor is what stood out to me, and it represents an investment in our seniors. They use the pool more than any other members and providing them easy access was important,” says Wise. 

“We deserve all the amenities we see in other YMCAs across the region. Simple things like paper towel dispensers and door holders that prevent cross-contamination. With so many of our members being seniors, features like these can go a long way in protecting them,” says Elliott. 

While residents are eager to see the renovations get underway, watching the building be demolished isn’t going to be easy. 

“Make no mistake about it, this is going to hurt,” Wise says. “This YMCA has been a cornerstone of our community for decades. It has hosted food drives, helped families get back on their feet, provided tutoring to small children, and a whole lot more. The loss, even though temporary, will hurt.”

Elliott worries about how YMCA members will cope in the short-term without a community place to go to. The Y Membership allows residents to visit any of local YMCAs, including those located nearest to Park South:

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“The doors have already been closed so now it becomes a question of where we will go to get what we’re losing,” Elliott says. “Sure, there are other YMCAs throughout the region, but those locations aren’t woven into our fabric like Park South. If the project had been started on time, we’d be so much closer to completion. It hurts, but we’ll get through it just like we always have, as one.”

No definitive demolition date has been set. Berryman projects the new facility will be completed within 12–14-months. This means that if work begins on schedule in late 2023, construction could possibly be completed by the end of 2024 or early 2025.

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