Could Uptown Y expand to Walker Library site?

The head of the YWCA of Minneapolis says the group has begun preliminary planning for expanding its 2808 Hennepin Ave. S. facility -- which might dovetail with a possible replacement of the nearby Walker Library.

Y CEO Nancy Hite said, "Our Uptown facility, which has been open since 1986, is really full, so we're feeling as though we're at capacity there. Our conclusion is that there's definitely a need for us to expand."

Finding such room is tricky, Hite acknowledged: "We're butting up right against the [Midtown] Greenway and we're on Hennepin Avenue and we're next to the transit station and we're next to the [Walker] library on the same block."

The underground library, 2880 Hennepin Ave. S., may be replaced. A City Council/Library Board task force is studying a mixed-use building on the site that would include a library, a concept pushed hard by Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward).

Could the library site include a wing of the Y?

Said Hite, "We sat down with the Councilmembers, and I also have been in contact with the Library Board to say that the YWCA is really interested in looking at what kind of synergy there might be for us to do an expansion and tie it in with whatever the library is looking at…We think there's a potential for doing a lot more there."

She said conversations with the Library Board haven't progressed to the point where anyone is discussing a facility housing the Y and the Walker, but "we haven't ruled anything out."

Hite said that there's no timeline for finalizing the Uptown facility's expansion plans. She said the group's leadership will wait to see what kinds of redevelopment ideas the city/libraries task force comes up with before moving ahead with their own planning process.

The task force has a deadline of March 31, 2005 to recommend whether to build a mixed-use facility or to fix the underground library's leaky combination roof and parking deck.

Until then, Hite said the folks at the Y will continue to be "creative with space" and to listen to area residents and members about what they would like to see included in an expanded facility.

The current Uptown Y is 80,000 square feet and serves 8,000 members, Hite said.