The Old YMCA building has dotted the Selma landscape since it was constructed in 1885.  Recently, the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society purchased the building and worked to stabilize what was a crumbling building. Now, the city has received a grant that will continue the building’s refurbishment.--File Photo
The Old YMCA building has dotted the Selma landscape since it was constructed in 1885. Recently, the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society purchased the building and worked to stabilize what was a crumbling building. Now, the city has received a grant that will continue the building’s refurbishment.-- File Photo

Grant will help turn Old YMCA into housing

Published 10:41pm Saturday, September 21, 2013

“Without the building, not only would the community lose a historical place, but the streetscape of downtown would be totally changed … We felt that we had to take action.”

When Jewell Williamson, president of the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society, said those words about the Old YMCA building in July, even she may not have been aware what would take place Friday.

The group purchased the Old YMCA building, built in 1885, and worked to stabilize the crumbling building. The Historic Preservation Society announced in July that stabilization efforts were completed and that the group was moving on to the next step.

That next step happened Friday with the announcement that the city of Selma, on behalf of the Preservation Society, had been awarded a $500,000 grant to help with the continued development of the building.

According to a release from U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), who announced the awarding of the grant, the building will be developed into affordable residential units.

The building will have capacity for future retail or office space on the first floor. A one-bedroom handicap unit will also take up the remainder of the first floor.

On the second level, space will be developed into two, two-bedroom units and three, one-bedroom units, producing six, newly-constructed housing units.

There are currently no development plans for the third level.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds were awarded through the Hope VI Main Street Grant Program.

“I am delighted that the city of Selma has received this grant from HUD to revitalize its historic YMCA building. There is a great need for affordable housing in Dallas County,” Sewell said in the release. “I am pleased that this critical funding will provide affordable housing units while revitalizing Selma’s historic YMCA building, one of the oldest YMCA buildings in Alabama. I look forward to what the city and its historical preservationists are going to be able to do with this grant.”

The purpose of the HOPE VI Main Street Program is to provide assistance to smaller communities in the development of affordable housing in connection with a Main Street revitalization effort. This program provides funding for communities to reconfigure commercial offices or buildings that can be revitalized into rent producing affordable housing.

“We are proud to be the only city in the nation to receive this funding from HUD. This assistance will certainly help improve the quality and atmosphere of downtown Selma,” Selma Mayor George Evans said. “This grant will restore the vitality of downtown Selma. I am thankful to Congresswoman Sewell, the Selma City Council and all of those who contributed to Selma’s receipt of this grant, including Jewell Williamson, Sylvia Smith and Henry Thompson for their teamwork.”

In describing the work in July Preservation Society did to help save the building, board member and former president, Nancy Bennett said the group’s goal was to save the building and keep the building from becoming even more dilapidated.

“We stabilized the building to prevent further deterioration. Our plans were never to put the façade back, but we hoped to save it from being demolished,” Bennett said. “There are a lot of things that still need to be done, but it now has a new roof, all the walls are stabilized, and someone can walk through without feeling like they are going to fall into the basement.”

There was no information on when work will begin on continuing the building’s redevelopment.

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