Ceremonial Groundbreaking Ceremony for New Riverside YMCA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 4, 2013

Officials at the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, alongside community leaders, volunteers, members and invited guests, have officially broken ground on the new Winston Family YMCA in Riverside at an evening celebration on the construction site Wednesday.

Last October, the organization announced plans to build the new YMCA on the riverfront lawn of the current facility at 221 Riverside Avenue with an estimated project cost of $22 million by putting three stakes in the ground for a healthier future – one for youth development, one for healthy living and one for social responsibility.

The new, three-story Y will be a dramatic, glass-fronted 65,000 square foot building overlooking the river, constructed using the latest standards of energy efficiency, and is expected to open in 12 to 16 months. It will rank among the best YMCA designs in the country and serve as an attractive destination for downtown. The existing Y will remain fully operational during construction.

Earlier this year, two anonymous donors contributed to the project to honor a well-known local civic leader and philanthropist, James H. Winston, a long-time friend of the organization and former chairman of the Board of Directors among various other leadership roles he’s played at the Y.

“I am pleased and honored today to offer a personal word of thanks to the generous and selfless donors who have named this extraordinary Y building for my family,” Winston said at the groundbreaking. “I have been involved with this Y for over 50 years and it has nurtured and sustained my health for all of those years. I’ve always felt and feel more strongly now that the First Coast YMCA is a vital, important and relevant asset to our community and is part of what makes this a great city.”

“This project is much bigger than the building,” said Eric Mann, President and CEO. “The Winston Family YMCA will enable our work in all the neighborhoods surrounding it, creating opportunities and allowing us to reach more people than ever before.”

For more than 60 years, the YMCA of Florida’s First Coast, established in 1908, has been serving the downtown area from its facility on Riverside. With 6,500 members, it is one of the area’s most diverse branches both in terms of race and socioeconomic status. At least a third of the participants receive some form of financial assistance from the Y in order to take part in programs and services, which are based on three areas of focus:

As part of the Y’s commitment to strengthening community by addressing critical gaps in both health and education, the new Y will provide new and innovative opportunities for children and teens growing up in surrounding neighborhoods to commit to keeping both their bodies and their minds active, as well as the support and encouragement necessary to set them on a path for long, healthy, productive lives. Among the Y’s goals for youth development through the new Y is reaching 5,000 children from underserved neighborhoods surrounding the Y with grade-level literacy programs, healthy habits curriculum, summer enrichment to eliminate summer learning loss and leadership development.

The new Riverside Y will also be the first Y in the metro-area to have a Healthy Living Center – another initiative detailed in the Y’s Vision for 2020. The Y’s Healthy Living Center (Y-HLC) will offer a comprehensive range of programs and services designed to create and encourage a more active and healthy community. Alongside collaborative partners Baptist Health, Brooks Rehab and Florida Blue, the Y will target and tackle serious health concerns of its youth and adult neighbors in Duval County’s Health Zone 1. This collaboration is designed to address major risk factors associated with the area’s leading causes of death, including various forms of cancer, heart disease, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke and diabetes. Programs and services offered through a Y-HLC will span four areas of wellness: preventative, reclaiming health, rehabilitation and recovery, and corporate wellness to support the productivity of the First Coast work force. The Y expects to reach an additional 25,000 people with much-needed health education, support and resources.

A central focus of the new Y is on bringing these youth development and healthy living programs to Riverside’s neighboring communities, like North Riverside, Oakland and West Jacksonville, where the need is great. Oakland and North Riverside are part of Health Zone 1 and have the highest rates of heart disease mortality, diabetes mortality and homicide deaths in the county. West Jacksonville, only a number of blocks away, is not far behind. The Y plans to invest more than $1 million to improve the health and well-being of some of the area’s most distressed neighborhoods and will strategically provide programs that support the resolution of the educational achievement gap for First Coast kids across the next ten years.

“These issues are the first of many the Y is poised to address in the next ten years,” Mann said.

The fundraising campaign is co-chaired by Russell Newton, III and John Anderson. Other members of the cabinet include Ron Autry, Doug Baer, John D. Baker, Billy Ball, J.F. and Peggy Bryan, Carl Cannon, G. John Carey, Ceree Harden, Leerie Jenkins, Percy Rosenbloom and James Winston. Leadership donors recognized at the groundbreaking include John D. Baker, II, The Weaver Family Foundation Fund, Gilchrist Berg, Luther and Blanche Coggin, Florida Blue, Russell B. Newton, Jr., and Mr. and Mrs. Russell B. Newton, III.

RS&H was selected as the architect of record for the project, Haskell as the Construction Manager and England-Thims and Miller (ETM) as the civil engineering firm.

“The level of collaboration and cooperation we’ve experienced in planning this project is a testament to the spirit of community fostered by the Y,” said YMCA Board Chairman C. Ron Coleman. “We are both honored and humbled by the collective generosity and support we’ve received in revitalizing our flagship location here at Riverside.”


Since 1908, the Y has been focused on improving the health and well-being of the First Coast by making sure that every individual, regardless of age, income, background or circumstance, has access to the resources needed to learn, grow and thrive. To learn more, visit http://FirstCoastYMCA.org.

NIKOS WESTMORELAND, Vice President of Communication
P 904.265.1773 E nwestmoreland@FirstCoastYMCA.org