By ASHLEY NEWMAN
WARREN - Local officials gathered in an empty swimming pool Wednesday morning for the Warren YWCA Construction Kick-Off.
The $2.1 million project will replace the former Wean pool at the North Park Street location with permanent supportive housing for women and families with special needs.
Shari Harrell, Warren YWCA executive director, said, "Our vision is to transform the YWCA into a vibrant community hub for all women by addressing their biggest needs, education, housing and health care. We can thereby transform social and economic problems."
Sandy Lisko, vice president of marketing at Huntington National Bank and YWCA board member, said the pool has not been used since 2006.
"It takes up one-third of the building," Lisko said.
''It was a tough decision to make to have to take down the pool, but then you look at the economic development and the community need that we have here, it just made sense to utilize this space as a housing unit,'' she said.
"So, we went through a long series of preparation through the city, funding and filling out grants, and it just came to a wonderful fruition with a lot of people that put in their time and effort to make it happen," she said.
About the YWCA
According to its website, the YWCA is the oldest and largest multicultural women's organization in the world. It has more than 25 million members in 122 countries, including 2 million members in 300 local associations in the United States. The organization's mission is to eliminate racism and empower women. It provides safe places for women and girls, builds strong women leaders and advocate for women's rights and civil rights in Congress.
The construction project will create 12 apartments for women and their families who are homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless. The YWCA will partner with Beatitude House and Coleman Professional Services to operate the housing and provide the residents with supportive services.
The project is being funded by Huntington Bank, Ohio Housing Finance Agency, Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, Warren Trumbull Home Consortium, the Corporation for Supportive Housing and the Rotary Club of Warren.
Jill Murphy, vice president of government banking relationship manager with Huntington National Bank and a board member with the YWCA, said, "Our bank supports numerous activities and groups here in the Warren area on a regular basis. Today we join forces with our community and the other partners to help the YWCA do this extraordinary project which will change the lives of women and children."
The YWCA expects demolition to begin early in the year, with construction of the apartments to begin shortly after.
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said, "In simple terms, it really jump starts our effort to bring downtown housing in Warren for residential living. Even more importantly, I think it signals to developers and investors that there is a lot happening in downtown Warren if you piece all of the other projects that are going on together.''
Franklin cited the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, relocation of Eastern Gateway Community College and BP announcing a new shale office in the Chase Tower as additional projects to help the downtown area.
"We still have the Robins Theatre on our agenda, too," Franklin said. "We want to showcase that project off to the tax credit awardees. I'm very proud that we were able to do all kinds of things in one fell swoop."