The YMCA announced it is closing its Monroe Avenue branch and turning the building over to the Center for Youth.

YMCA of Greater Rochester President and CEO George Romell said it decided to close the branch because of low attendance even before the coronavirus pandemic.

Romell says the branch averaged 100 people daily during its busiest time of year and that half of the members go to other, more modern branches. This makes the location financially unsustainable to operate.

“There’s been a lot of pain. Since April 1, over 2,000 staff have been without their jobs,” Romell said. “We don’t get PPE support, we don’t get government support, because of the size of our operation. We’ve had to absorb all the impact on our Ys alone.”

Chris Stevens has fond memories of the Monroe Family YMCA.

Now as the President of the Upper Monroe Neighborhood Association, she knows better than most what an institution it is for her community- which has been around since the 1920s.

“I learned to swim in that pool as a young child, my siblings and I took a bus to get here at that time to learn to swim there,” Stevens said.

 “There doors have always been open to us when we need meeting space. Neighbors throughout use the Y on a regular basis,” Stevens said. “You can’t be in this neighborhood and not see people walking to the Y, or walking home from the Y.”

For Stevens, the news was hard to hear.

“My first reaction is just how sad this is. The Y being just down the street from us has been such a cornerstone of this community, such an anchor and is so built into the fabric of all the surrounding neighborhoods,” Stevens said.

But when one chapter ends, another begins. The YMCA is selling the building to the Center for Youth, a local organization that served 33,000 young people last year according to Executive Director Elaine Spaull. And they’re selling it to the non-profit for a single dollar.

“I think it’s hard to accept change. Change is inevitable, but change can be good,” Stevens said. “And I think the future for this particular building in the hands of the Center for Youth is very bright- as hard as that will be for the current users of the Y.”

The Victor branch is also closing but Romell says the YMCA plans to hold on to the building. They are considering the possibility of repurposing the building to help the school district.