Guy-Favreau YMCA avoids closure, signs 10-year lease

Major renovations to the community centre's changing rooms, showers and main entrance hall were also revealed, a project that’s expected to be complete by the beginning of 2019.

Major renovations to the Y’s changing rooms, showers and main entrance hall also announced

Phillips Chu spearheaded a campaign to keep the YMCA open. (Submitted by Les YMCA du Québec)

The YMCA in Complexe Guy-Favreau in Montreal's Chinatown district will remain open for at least the next 10 years, after coming close to closing last year, thanks to a new deal reached with the federal government.

Major renovations to the YMCA's changing rooms, showers and main entrance hall were also announced Thursday as part of a project that's expected to be complete by the beginning of 2019.

"It's been a long haul, from the sentiment when it was first closing to this moment, it's been a battle," said Phillips Chu, who met his wife at the Y and spearheaded the campaign to keep it open.

The community centre faced closure in March 2017, when the centre announced it could no longer afford the $240,000 per year to rent the basement space in Guy-Favreau, a federal government building.

Ottawa offered the community centre a lease with a symbolic annual rent of $1 so it could stay open until May 2018.

During that year, the Y began a consultation process to determine whether it could construct a financially viable and sustainable business model — which, according to Quebec YMCA president and CEO Stéphane Vaillancourt, was successful.

The YMCA in Complexe Guy-Favreau is a gym and a centre for Montreal's Chinese population. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

"We wanted to take this opportunity to see how we can establish a new vision for the centre, and do it in a different way," Vaillancourt said.

Vaillancourt would not confirm the exact cost of the lease, or whether the price would remain fixed. Public Services and Procurement Canada, which operates the building for the government, did not immediately return a request for details on the agreement Thursday.

'A lab for new programming'

Along with the renovations, the Y developed new programming for the centre by talking to the community and the corporate sector that surrounds the Guy-Favreau centre, Vaillancourt said.

"The YMCA will become … like a lab for new programming in the community, both inside our walls and outside our walls. It's the kind of thing we were hoping for," he said.

Phil Chu works out with his girlfriend, who he met at the YMCA at the Complexe Guy-Favreau. (Phil Chu)

He said the reaction from the community upon last year's closure announcement confirmed that the centre has a huge impact on the community.

"I really became part of the family," Chu said, reflecting on his experience volunteering at the Y. He met his girlfriend at the centre, and the two are expecting their first child in November.

He started an online petition when the centre's closure was announced, which he says gained 3,000 signatures within a week.

"For us it's really a big deal. It's really ingrained in our past."

The YMCA Guy-Favreau has 5,500 annual users and 2,200 of them are YMCA members.