Denver, CO

Denver YMCA shares redevelopment plans for University Hills-Schlessman

David Heitz
A retail mix as part of a redevelopment plan for the Denver YMCA may look something like this, according to a project architect.Denver YMCA

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) The Denver YMCA shared ideas Tuesday to redevelop its University Hills-Schlessman location.

With the help of a developer, the Y plans to transform its current campus into a community hub. The plans include green space, a park-like Main Street, and a brand-new YMCA building.

Currently, the Y operates in two buildings built in the 1950s. The properties have suffered from deferred maintenance, according to the YMCA website. The aquatics facilities also are aging.

The site is large enough to hold more than just a new YMCA building. It also will include a first-floor retail mix, apartments, and perhaps a grocery store.

At the last community meeting in October, many people said they wanted green space on the campus. The Y also envisions outdoor recreation classes on campus.

"The strategic plan is trying to address the societal needs of our day," Denver YMCA President and CEO Sue Glass said. About 70 people attended the meeting in person, while another 100 joined online.

After a short presentation, those attending the meeting broke into small groups and asked questions. Spectators online also could ask questions.

YMCA tackles' social isolation'

"We want to tackle the social isolation issue and be a place of connection," Glass said. She added that addressing the community's mental health needs is also a priority. "How can we be a safe haven for people to come and support them in their journey?" Glass asked.

Glass envisions the Y as a haven for teenagers and seniors, too. And the Y plans to provide a higher level of daycare services, Glass said.

She said the Y has "a lot of challenges," adding, "We have experienced a membership decline in the past five years. Families are leaving at a higher rate than any other membership type."

Developers create joint venture

According to a question-and-answer about the redevelopment project on the YMCA's website, the project's developers created a joint venture called Y CoRe that includes active partnerships with the YMCA, Republic Metropolitan, and Confluent Development.

The Y created the information section using the October community input meeting questions.

Some neighbors expressed concerns about traffic flow at that meeting, while others said they hoped the project would include restaurants and a grocery store.
This drawing shows how the YMCA's reveloped campus will be laid out.Denver YMCA

Project like building a stool

Aaron Mendelsohn of Republic said putting together a project like the YMCA redevelopment is like constructing a stool. One leg is the institution, another leg is the development company guiding the institution through the process, and the third leg is the community.

"It really does take a village to do projects like this," said Celeste Tanner, chief development officer of Confluent Development. "We want to engage as much of the community as possible."

Gleaning community input is key to the project's success, the developers repeated.

According to Tanner, construction on the new campus won't begin until 2024 at the earliest. The YMCA still hasn't brought plans before the city. Tanner said the application process takes about a year and includes a rezoning review and site development plan.

Jackson Street will see little additional traffic

The developer hopes to create traffic patterns that won't affect Jackson Street, a suburban road. The project will route traffic through Colorado Boulevard using intersection reconfigurations to ease access to the street.

According to the developer, Colorado Boulevard will be a mixed-use corridor that includes a five-story, mixed-use building.

Stantec, an architectural firm, compiled inspirational photos to illustrate how the project could look.
This collage of photos shows what Main Street on the Y campus might look like.Denver YMCA

The developers hope to create a park-like oasis outside of Colorado Boulevard. "We want to make sure it's pedestrian-friendly," a Stantec representative said.

The Stantec representative said that the project has space for doctor's offices on the campus, keeping with a health and wellness theme.

The YMCA plans to remain open during construction.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

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