A dramatic $30 million renovation has transformed a faltering downtown Minneapolis shopping mall into the new Douglas Dayton YMCA at Gaviidae — a fitness, well-being and social responsibility center the nonprofit is touting as the first of its kind nationwide.
Leaders of the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities say the five-level center slated to open Friday on Nicollet Mall at 6th Street is a bold testament to the organization’s mission to serve the spirit, mind and body, at one of downtown’s most visible crossroads.
“This is one of the most important investments being made on Nicollet Mall. It deals with the well-being of the community, and it’s the community coming together for positive social impact,” YMCA President and CEO Glen Gunderson said.
Gaviidae Common, once known for its tony shops including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, is now emblazoned with the name of one of the state’s largest and oldest charitable nonprofits. The YMCA, which purchased part of the building, has maintained the open-air feel of the mall.
The 105,000-square-foot Dayton YMCA has a fitness center with a pool, office space for 400 employees at the nonprofit’s headquarters, and two amenities billed as firsts at Y facilities nationwide: a well-being center offering health coaching, massage, meditation and holistic therapies, and an equity innovation center providing leadership training and certifications in equity, diversity and inclusion.
“This will bring new life to the downtown community,” said Kathryn Mitchell Ramstad, president of the Christen Group and a member of the YMCA governing board.
Dan Collison, Minneapolis Downtown Council director of downtown partnerships, said he’s thrilled by the YMCA’s presence asan anchor on Nicollet Mall.
“It brings a very cohesive sense of purpose to that building,” Collison said. “I see the YMCA as a holistic regional treasure.”
With the new facility’s opening, the YMCA will close its other 110,000-square-foot downtown location at 30 S. 9th St. and is in the process of selling the building.
Proceeds from that sale, the sale of cellular towers on top of Gaviidae, $10 million in fundraising and other financing are covering the bulk of the costs of the new YMCA, Gunderson said.
Gunderson said the new location is more convenient and accessible for the entire community.
The Y has 3,100 members in downtown Minneapolis but anticipates growing to more than 5,000 in the next two years, Gunderson said.
The most visible part of the Dayton YMCA is the fitness center spread out on five levels and the rooftop. It has nearly 140 cardio machines, free weights, weight machines and an Italian-designed modular training system that uses the body’s own weight and resistance. Seven studios will host 130 fitness classes each week — nearly twice the number offered at the old Y.
The studios offer high-tech components, from lights that pulse to the beat of the music to a theater-style cycling experience simulating rides through the Rockies and the French Alps or along the St. Croix River.
A rotating product showcase will feature the newest innovations in fitness.
In the space now is an Icaros, a German-made virtual reality fitness machine that makes users feel like they are flying. The downtown YMCA is the first in the country to make it available for member use, said Nathan Maehren, YMCA senior vice president of digital.
Well-being and equity
If the YMCA is known for its gyms and pools, two new facilities at the Dayton Y reflect the nonprofit’s other values.
The Equity Innovation Center and the George Wellbeing Center will open in the spring and are expected to draw thousands of visitors each year.
The well-being center will offer evidence-based, integrative health practices shown to reduce stress, promote healing and improve health outcomes. Services will include massage, acupuncture, yoga and meditation.
The equity center will provide experiential learning and simulations on equity, diversity, and inclusion.
“It’s amazing the appetite for this,” Gunderson said. “We are trying to help the community look through a fresh lens.”