New youth-focused community center is coming to Poughkeepsie

A brand new Dutchess County Youth Community Center is nearing completion after demolition of a former YMCA building in Poughkeepsie began on Monday.

The Youth Opportunity Union (YOU) will provide a facility for children to play, learn and grow on a three-acre site in the heart of Poughkeepsie that has been vacant and deteriorating for over a decade.

“Residents of the town of Poughkeepsie saw it as a kind of reflection of their own community,” said Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. “They saw an abandonment and decay of this building as a sad and incorrect reflection of the city as a whole.”

Molinaro, Poughkeepsie Town Mayor Rob Rolison, Common Council members and other local stakeholders met Monday as demolition began at 35 Montgomery Street. In July 2021, the county and the city finalized a land agreement whereby the county acquired the site from the city. Dutchess County has committed to spending $25 million to design and build YOU. Of that amount, $10 million will come from US federal bailout funds and the rest will come from a capital campaign.

“This will create real opportunity, real investment and support for young people and their families for generations to come,” Molinaro said. “We see YOU investing early in the root causes of the challenges facing young people.”

Although the YOU is a county initiative, it will work with a variety of organizations, according to a press release, including the nationally recognized Harlem Children’s Zone. Official funding and solicitation of donations will not begin until design and cost estimates are finalized.

“We want it to be community driven,” Molinaro said. “There will be community needs in the future that we cannot imagine, there will be partners that do not yet exist and there will be some that no longer want to be under the roof. We are creating a pattern and momentum that allows us to evolve and respond to the needs of the community and not stagnate or become a vacant building, but rather a building that remains alive and relevant to the community.

A conceptual design of a proposed atrium at YOU, provided by MASS Design.

mass design

The YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County will be the future operator of YOU, according to a press release. The county selected as the project architect MASS Design Group, which is also behind The Academy, a $13 million mixed-use complex under construction. Additionally, the county has created a YOU Advisory Committee made up of community leaders who will provide feedback on design plans and potential operations. The committee held listening sessions and other engagement events to get community feedback.

To involve young people in the project while it is being developed, the county is working with The artistic effect and design firm Small Stuff in an initiative that will feature artwork on the temporary fence surrounding the construction site.

Construction of the YOU is expected to begin in 2023. Once the facility opens, it will focus on recreational, educational and wholesome opportunities. It’s a part of Dutchess County Path to Promise Initiative which employs new ways to ensure young people across the county have everything they need to reach their full potential.

Based on community feedback so far, the YOU could include a swimming pool, gymnasium, fitness center, health and wellness services, and 24-hour child care.

Jill E. Washington