Leaning Tower YMCA housing in Niles will close this year; membership facilities closed in 2020
by BRIAN NADIG
Last June the Leaning Tower YMCA in Niles permanently closed its membership facilities at 6300 W. Touhy Ave., and it will now be shutting down its housing operations there by Sept. 30.
The 92 residents currently Irving in the complex were notified in April of the decision, and a relocation firm has been brought in to help tenants find a new home, according to YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago director of communications Man-Yee Lee. The nine-story building has a total of 197 units.
YMCA officials have cited the high cost of maintaining their aging facilities on the site combined with dwindling membership in recent years and the additional loss of revenue due to the pandemic as the reasons for shutting down all of their Niles operations.
“As noted with the decision last year to close the Leaning Tower YMCA membership operations, we are no longer able to sustain the rising costs of maintaining the aging Leaning Tower YMCA building, which has reached the end of its useful life with millions of dollars in deferred maintenance,” Lee said in a statement.
He added, “Among other alternative housing options, relocation opportunities include the Y’s two other SRO housing operations at Irving Park YMCA and Lake View YMCA.”
Niles economic development director John Melaniphy said that prior to the pandemic the village had been in talks with YMCA officials about issuing a joint request for proposals in an effort to redevelop the YMCA and former W.W. Grainger site at 5959 W. Howard St., which the village owns. However, that fell through after the YMCA withdrew from a proposal to take over operations of the Niles Family Fitness Center near Oakton Street and Waukegan Road.
The YMCA site is located in the Gross Point/Touhy Tax Increment Financing District, and the village has been marketing the area as a possible entertainment district with mixed-use developments.
Melaniphy said that he brings up the YMCA site when talking to developers about the Grainger parcel. He said that some of the challenges about selling both sites to a developer could be that the YMCA leases a portion of its site and that the village and YMCA may not necessarily have the same timetable for selling.
“The facility is not currently for sale. Once the relocation process (of the tenants) is complete, the YMCA will consider the future of the facility, including the possibility of the sale of the building,” Lee said.
Any possible redevelopment of the YMCA site is not expected to affect the famous 87-year-old half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa on the site. The Village of Niles owns the tower and recently had it restored.