New Hayes-Taylor YMCA opening on Florida Street in Greensboro

by Jeff Sykes

Staff, community prepare for new Hayes-Taylor YMCA in Greensboro | @jeffreysykes

When residents of East Greensboro raised $5,000 to buy a lot on the corner of East Market and Dudley streets for a new YMCA back in 1938 they could not have picked a better spot.

Centrally located between neighborhoods, close to downtown and right next to NC A&T State University, the location was prime. Over the years the Hayes-Taylor YMCA has served as a prominent organization in the community and been the location for several historically important events.

Men waiting to be deployed overseas used the Hayes- Taylor YMCA for rest and recreation during World War II.

In January of 1960, the four A&T students who would go on to launch the Sit-In Movement at Woolworth’s first had planning meetings at Hayes-Taylor. The site later hosted a number of Civil Rights rallies, and was visited by Martin Luther King Jr. Students from A&T launched what is now a successful childcare center at the Hayes- Taylor YMCA in the late 1950s, with humble beginnings as summer “vacation schools.”

Though it was renovated and expanded in 1996, urban growth and the growth of the university left the Hayes-Taylor YMCA little room for expansion.

By 2005, the YMCA board approved the relocation of the facility.

After 75 years of success and community service, the Hayes-Taylor YMCA is poised for a new era of community service in an expanded facility that will offer more opportunities for improved health for its members.

The new Hayes-Taylor YMCA, located at the intersection of Florida and Lee streets, is the newest addition to a section of Greensboro seeing increased investment. Gateway University Research Park is across Lee Street. Hayes-Taylor is next to Barber Park on Florida Street, which YMCA administrators hope will lead to increased opportunities for outdoor programming.

The new 55,000 square foot Hayes-Taylor YMCA is nearing completion. A ribbon cutting is scheduled for Jan. 7, with a community celebration set for Jan. 17.

The current Hayes-Taylor YMCA was sold to NC A&T back in 2011, with funds being used to start the $11 million capital campaign for the new facility. The ability to hit fundraising goals is a testament to the impact the Hayes- Taylor YMCA has had on the community since Caesar Cone donated $50,000 to build the first one. His only stipulation was that the facility be named for his housekeeper and butler, Sallie Hayes and Andrew Taylor.

“We had really outgrown the space we are in for programs and activities,” said Larry Burnett, Hayes-Taylor YMCA’s director. “The parking was not adequate and the afterschool program did not have greenspace to go outside because of where we are located.”

Once the current building was sold, the hunt for a new location began. Support from donors and community and corporate foundations helped build their capital campaign fund. Eventually, the Hayes-Taylor YMCA formed a partnership with the city to land property for a new facility.

Hayes-Taylor YMCA will lease the site on Florida Street from the City of Greensboro in exchange for providing certain programs and services, including environmental education, instructional classes, and indoor swimming lessons.

The property was identified about 18 months ago and construction began last year.

“When we were able to partner with the city to provide services to the community, you had a partnership of non-profits, government and education that came together, in addition to tremendous support from our board, foundations and corporations,” Burnett said.

During a hardhat tour of the new facility this week, it was hard for Burnett and new wellness director Susan Gerke to conceal their excitement. Construction noise and activity bustled all around, but the vision of expanded programs and services was clear.

Burnett said the Hayes-Taylor YMCA will partner with A&T and the NC Cooperative Extension office to increase the community garden space in the new facility. One of the largest spaces on the ground floor is the community room, which any of the various organizations that use the Hayes- Taylor YMCA as a meeting space will continue to utilize.

The room is connected to an instructional kitchen, where children from the various childcare programs will learn how to use garden-grown items in recipes.

The community meeting room is connected to a childcare space via a large swinging door, itself having a chalkboard on one side for meeting notes and a corkboard on the other for children to use.

Down the hall and next to the pool area will be a cafe area that leads to an outdoor patio. Seniors and others will be able to use the cafe as a social space, which includes a fireplace.

The pool area contains three segments, a splash pad for children, therapeutic pool and a large pool for lap swimming.

“It’s bigger and the functional area is better,” said Gerke, the wellness director. “It’s really just a good use of the space.”

On the other side of the facility is the childcare facility, with a separate secured entrance, and the new basketball courts. The childcare facility will allow for growth of the Hayes-Taylor YMCA’s licensed, five-star facility. Currently serving 20 children, Burnett said the program might expand to 50.

The upstairs is a large, open space with significant natural light coming in from large glass windows. The area will contain offices, but most of the space is dedicated to the fitness center and a track along the edge of the floor space. Two separate aerobics rooms will allow for multiple classes running at the same time.

Gerke, who formerly served as the aquatics and wellness director at the YWCA in Downtown High Point, said she is exited about the program possibilities in the new Hayes-Taylor YMCA.

From a deck overlooking the basketball gym, Burnett explained how the staff hopes to replicate the mural of Curly Neal, a famous member of the Harlem Globetrotters who grew up attending the Hayes-Taylor YMCA, in the new facility.

The proximity to Barber Park is a factor that both Burnett and Gerke referred to often. Burnett said he believes this will help increase the impact of the Hayes-Taylor YMCA on the community.

“I think it will have a strong health and wellness impact on that entire region because of the number of things you can do in combination with Barber Park,” Burnett said. “This new facility gives us a tremendous opportunity to bring our members into a safe, well-lit parking lot. It has a multitude of programs that we could not adequately provide (in the current facility.) We feel very fortunate about that.” !