NEW BUFFALO — Plans are underway to develop a YMCA center in the New Buffalo area.

Mark Weber, CEO of the YMCA of Southwest Michigan, said the YMCA has been working with St. Mary of the Lake Church in New Buffalo and other community groups to open a YMCA community center in the parochial school building behind the church at 704 W. Merchant St.

“I’m really excited about it. We’re leveraging an existing facility. Here, we can repurpose something that’s already available,” Weber said. He said someone in the community approached the YMCA a couple of years ago about developing a facility in New Buffalo. Then, St. Mary’s church members made him aware that they had an empty school building.

Weber said Early Head Start Program, not affiliated with the Y, will be using three classrooms beginning in November. In another area of the school, the YMCA will manage the development of a day care center with a targeted opening of March 2020, Weber said.

“The day care will be an easy entry. The health and fitness component will take longer,” he said.

A fund-raising campaign will kick off in early 2020 with the goal of raising $1.6 million to fully implement the community-based YMCA center in New Buffalo, with net income from operations expected to break even in three years.

Weber said the $1.6 million to renovate the existing school building will cost much less than it would to build a new facility.

Future plans for the YMCA community center include health and wellness initiatives, fitness classes, a workout facility and a gymnasium. An annual fund-raising campaign will be put in place to subsidize child care and YMCA services to families in need.

Weber said Katie Maroney from Equilibrium Fitness will be involved in plans to develop the community health and fitness initiative in New Buffalo. 

“Katie and the YMCA have a shared vision of establishing a center that will provide the residents of Harbor Country with much-needed health and wellness programs and opportunities,” Weber said.