“Shovel Ready” for next 150 years

YMCA Christchurch has been allocated $43 million to undertake a major redevelopment on their central city site, with a central goal to make a tangible difference to children, young people and their families.

CEO Josie Ogden Schroeder has led the organisation since 2008 – including managing the YMCA’s recovery post-quake. Admitting feeling a bit fatigued from ‘crisis management’ she is surprised, encouraged and delighted with the shovel ready outcome, saying that the decision is a major game changer for their organisation and represents a real understanding on the behalf of the Crown Infrastructure Partners, that post Covid-19 there needs to be investment into social frameworks as well as economic ones.

“Economic health and community wellbeing are intrinsically linked, it’s the reason why social enterprise is a compelling answer to many of our economic and societal issues. We should talk about that as a nation more.” Ogden Schroeder said.

“Being a community owned Charitable Trust with no core operational funding from local or central Government, the YMCA adds value by generating business and enterprise – which directly results in immense investment into areas of social need. It is really great that our value has been acknowledged in this way and the Government has decided to invest in an organisation that has been ‘giving back’ to the community for 158 years already.”

YMCA Christchurch’s ambitious plans are grounded in a clear set of objectives and mandate from their diverse stakeholder groups. Operating in multiple sectors, including education, recreation, wellbeing, arts and tourism to name a few, the YMCA has been focused on ensuring their ‘blue chip’ site opposite the Arts Centre and the Botanical Gardens – and within a stones’ throw of the Christchurch Hospital – is leveraged to maximise the benefit it can bring for anyone visiting or living in Christchurch. Plans include a licensed preschool, a black-box 200 seat community theatre, health and wellbeing spaces, education facilities for young people, dance and movement studios, office space for other youth-NGOs, and a range of support tenants including hospitality, general medical practice and physiotherapy. All will sit alongside their newly refurbished accommodation facility that includes a mix of options for short and long-term stays for both the discerning traveller and the young person needing safe haven.

“We have something on offer for every person at the YMCA – but in particular our charitable outputs surround supporting, empowering, enabling and celebrating young people from all backgrounds and cultures. This project will enable us to bring our facilities into the 21st century, and thereby maximise the impact we can generate for young people now and for many generations into the future.”

The YMCA estimates that 200,000 people engage in YMCA Christchurch programmes annually, and pitched to the CIP that this investment represented an investment of $20 per person per year over ten years. “This is value for money without even quantifying the impact of lives changed through YMCA programmes” Ogden Schroeder believes.

The build programme, which will begin in September and be completed in 2022, will directly employ 120 people, with the YMCA employing on-site upon completion 70+ employees. The vision also includes providing affordable office space for a range of other youth-focussed NGO’s who would benefit from being centrally co-located and having long-term security of tenure, and will enable further the significant work the Y does to support young people develop skills and readiness for future employment.

The YMCA’s Board of Trustees’ vision beyond this redevelopment includes building affordable central city apartments. “The YMCA wants to see more young people being able to afford to live in the city – be that either via long-term lease or lease-to-own arrangements.”

The apartment aspect of the plans are reflective of the City Council’s aspiration to increase the number of residences in the central city. The Shovel Ready funding greatly progresses this goal for the YMCA – by reducing the financial barriers to the overall development: described as a ‘game changer’ by the organisation.

The YMCA’s application to the fund emphasised the long-term benefits for people if their project was invested in.

“This is sustainable social enterprise of the kind which Millennials, Generation Z and younger, relate to, are looking for in our current leaders, and want to support. This project is about them, not ‘shareholders’ or profit margins or market share. In short, it’s a legacy project – about people now and for decades into the future. Supporting the YMCA demonstrates to the general public that rhetoric about community wellbeing, health, employment and considering the needs of young New Zealanders is genuinely meant.”

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