YMCA Southern Branch – rendering of proposed expansion

YMCA Southern Branch – rendering of proposed expansion

Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects has been involved with the initial transformations and has helped with the renovations over the years.

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When the YMCA of York and York County saw a need in the early 1990s to serve the growing population along Pennsylvania’s southern border, it opened the Southern Branch of the Y in Shrewsbury in 1995.

Twenty years later, the facility had doubled in size, expanding to add an eight-lane swimming pool, locker rooms, and offices.

Today, the branch serves roughly 10,000 people a year in small towns from Stewartstown to Hanover, Jacobus into northern Maryland. But it’s not just the number of people in the community that’s changed.

“In the last 20 years, we have seen the needs of the community grow,” says Larry Richardson, CEO and president of the YMCA of York and York County.

It’s why the branch is adding another 20,000 square feet to create a full-size gym and a therapeutic pool, which will likely will open in fall 2019.

It even purchased another acre of land for future expansion.

Behind this growth, the Y has had a little help.

  YMCA Southern Branch – rendering of proposed expansion

YMCA Southern Branch – rendering of proposed expansion

‘Our history goes back’

Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects has shared the Y’s vision for the branch every step of the way.

The company, which has offices in Baltimore and York, Pa., designed the original branch and has worked on a number of projects aimed at keeping up with the demand in the area. 

“Our history goes back a number of years, when the YMCA of York and York County bought a roller skating rink and turned it into the Southern Branch of the Y,” says Frank E. Dittenhafer II, FAIA, LEED AP President of the architectural firm. “We were involved in the initial transformation with the pool and  locker room addition. Over the years we helped with renovations.”

When Dittenhafer served as a borough official, he was instrumental in helping to bring the branch to the area, Richardson says.

Long-range vision

From the start, the plan was to expand the original gym beyond the roller rink and to add a therapeutic pool.

“We actually had the therapeutic pool and pool on the land-development plan in 1997,” Richardson says. “We recognized 20 years ago that there was a community need at some point in time for the older active adult population and also recognized that the former roller rink that was there could not be converted to recreational use for teens and older active adults.”

The gym in the old rink has 15-foot ceilings that aren’t high enough for basketball games. The new gym will provide indoor recreational space that is coveted in Southern York County, Richardson says.

A good neighbor

The Southern Branch embraces its community as well as its members. It partners with Living Hope Church in Shrewsbury, which holds services there and will use the new gym for worship.

“We’re going to work with the church and the Y to find a way that there could be a basketball game Saturday and then Sunday morning have altar space and set up chairs, so it can become a worship space,” says architect Todd Grove, who is designing the gym and therapeutic pool.

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Natural lighting will be a key feature in the gym and pool. Grove says the 4,320-square-foot warm-water pool “should be a pleasant space when you’re trying to recuperate and not feel too antiseptic.”

The pool and a whirlpool bath will benefit people with joint and arthritis problems. It also can be used for youth swim lessons and will be adaptable for people with special needs.

Another strong Y partner, which could benefit from the new pool, is Spirit Trust Lutheran, located adjacent to the Y campus. The agency provides residential and assisted-living services, plus nursing and rehabilitation programs.

An array of offerings

The branch’s latest additions complement its slate of child care, youth camps, sports leagues, and exercise classes, as well as a diabetes-prevention program, nutrition coaching, and human services.

“It is very inspiring to see a community facility so successful because the community embraces it and sees the value of opportunities it offers,” Dittenhafer says. “It epitomizes the definition of a great community.”

The next project at the Southern Branch might not be far off.

“Once we’ve completed this, we’ll look at how we can have a further impact on the community,” Richardson says. Noting that the Y opened in York in 1855, he adds, “We have a model that has worked for 163 years.”


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