Historic YMCA building to get new lease on life

The YMCA building of Santa Ana has a very interesting past and future. The past is nearly 100 years old and the future is affected by a new government grant that could assist the City with the saving of the building and the creation of the Idea Center.

Just north of the City’s most significant historic monument, the Old County Court House, the YMCA building was designed by Santa Ana architect Frederick H. Ely in the early 1920s.

Dedicated in 1924, the original building featured a poor, upper-level residence rooms and a state-of-the-art gymnasium with an elevated running track. Much of this outstanding architectural fabric is still in place, an example of Spanish Colonial revival architecture.

The walls are constructed of concrete, some as thick as 18 inches. In 1933, many of the local residents and engineers found out how effective reinforced concrete was at riding out the county’s most significant recent earthquake. The building came through with almost no significant damage.

In 1971, the building received a significant remodel. However, due to the YMCA vacating in the mid 1980s, the building has been vacant for over 14 years.

Help may be on the way. The City’s Community Development Agency has fostered a budding relationship between Santa Ana College and UCI to jointly create an Idea Center, which would serve as an educational facility. The school would offer lab, field and class instruction for the aspect of media (especially film) support and special digital effects.

The City is active in two areas of saving the building. First, they have begun research and feasibility for the rehabilitation and conversion of the old YMCA. Second, they have applied for federal funding and assistance for the proposed $5 million renovation and outfitting. The answers from the funding sources are positive with the receipt of $250,000 of federal funding in the works.