New YMCA To Open On Former Pearson Ford Lot At 'Fairmount And El Cajon'
From 1966 to 2009, the lot at Fairmount Avenue and El Cajon Boulevard was where San Diegans kicked tires and haggled with Pearson Ford salesmen. Now it's hard hats and bulldozers at the former car dealership, as construction workers put the finishing touches on the Copley-Price Family YMCA.
The facility is scheduled to open Jan. 24 – a few weeks later than expected due to inclement weather.
The $34 million project features a fitness center, soccer arena, 9,000 square-foot gym, demonstration kitchen, play fountains and two pools. One of the pools sits inside a glass structure with a retractable roof.
"We're going from a Volkswagen to a Cadillac," said San Diego YMCA President Baron Herdelin-Doherty.
The neighborhood's existing YMCA was built in 1956. The organization had planned to overhaul that property when Price Philanthropies offered the YMCA the Pearson Ford lot. The foundation started by Price Club founder Sol Price has worked in City Heights for more than three decades and bought the land.
It sits squarely where three communities converge – City Heights to the south and the more affluent Kensington and Talmadge to the north. Herdelin-Doherty said the YMCA is hoping to bridge the communities, which were at odds over what Price should do with the lot. Residents had asked for everything from a gourmet grocery store or apartments to a skate park or Wal-Mart.
Courtney Harrness, executive manager of the new YMCA, said early membership signups reflect the nearby communities. Most have been carried over from the existing City Heights YMCA, but sign-ups are coming in from Kensington and Talmadge too, he said.
But a clear focus on the area's diverse communities remains.
The old YMCA offered special swim hours for Muslim women who are uncomfortable swimming in front of men. Staff at the new facility will meet with the women later this month to address any issues with the new pool area. For example, crews will likely install retractable screens or curtains in the glass pool enclosure to keep passersby from peering in.
The new YMCA will also maintain extended hours for a weekly Somali family night. The late hours help East African taxi drivers get exercise after long days sitting in cabs.
And it's starting a basketball league for worshipers at a nearby Orthodox synagogue.
"We want to make sure we're providing great service, great facilities, great engagement, no matter who you are," Herdelin-Doherty said.