Work begins on former YMCA building in Joplin

Nov. 13—Demolition work has started on the former Downtown YMCA building, which is owned by the same development company that is renovating the Olivia Apartments.

Sawyer Smith, a principal in the family-owned real estate development companies of Blue Haven Homes and Bykota LLC that own the buildings, said efforts to secure the exterior of the building are underway and that demolition work is going on to prepare for the building's renovation.

Currently, Neal Construction Group and Robison Construction are working on the Y. Smith said that involves adding security features to the exterior, including a light system to increase visibility around the structure.

Indoors, the third to fifth floors are being cleared out to the stud framing. There also will be demolition of nonoriginal features on the main floor.

"The floor plan that exists doesn't allow for building apartments," Smith said.

The plan calls for a $5 million renovation to accommodate 40 apartments and some commercial space. The Smiths also intend to try to keep the basement swimming pool if possible. Mold remediation has to be done where the filled pool has fostered mold growth over the years the building has not been in use.

It was vacated in 2017 when Y directors decided to consolidate operations into one building, the Joplin Family Y at 3404 W. McIntosh Circle Drive, and close the downtown building. It was purchased by the Bykota group in 2020.

Construction of the building at 501 S. Wall Ave. started in 1919, and the Y opened there in 1921. The building originally housed the YMCA for men and boys. The organization celebrated its 130th anniversary in Joplin last year.

Smith said work continues on the Olivia, where the company is framing out a new floor plan for the market rate apartments that are to be constructed. New windows are to be installed, and half of those have arrived and are being put in. The building's balconies are being fabricated and will be installed as available, Smith said.

"It is hard to say when it will be completed," he said. "It's a longer construction project than the Y building."

In addition to waiting on material deliveries and permits for the Olivia, Smith said it was decided to revise the plan for the fifth floor to allow more public use when the building is finished. That floor served as a restaurant and a place for social events in the building's early days.

Completion of the Olivia, Joplin's original luxury apartment house, was planned for fall 2023, but it appears it will be winter next year or spring 2024, Smith said.

Applications for tenants will not be taken until renderings of the finished building and interior spaces are available and the project is closer to completion. Smith said an announcement on the plan for tenant applications will be made far in advance so that people will have time to consider if they wish to apply for an apartment.

Both the Y and the Olivia are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.