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Former YMCA building being transformed into health and wellness centre

'I’m glad that the building is going to be used for health and wellness,' says Kirby Wagg, who is hoping to champion a 'scaled-down' YMCA in Orillia

The former Orillia YMCA building will become a centre for health and wellness.

The building and property at 300 Peter St. N. was purchased by Friden Land Corp. It will become the Friden Orillia Health and Wellness Centre.

The plan is for it to become home to chiropractic, physiotherapy and other services related to health and wellness, with professionals leasing space in the building.

“We’re talking to some fairly big users,” said Kirby Wagg, the real estate agent with Ed Lowe Limited Brokerage who handled the sale of the building and is looking after the leasing with Mike Kane.

The building has two floors with more than 5,900 square feet. The owner plans to fill in the pool and put a mezzanine over the gymnasium as part of the renovation process, and another elevator will be installed.

Wagg said the hope is to reveal the “anchor tenants” in the coming weeks. He expects tenants could be up and running in the building in about a month, though that timeline could change.

The health and wellness centre wasn’t what Friden had initially planned. At first, the goal was to turn the building into a “group home type of facility” for youth, Wagg said.

“I don’t know exactly why it is not (happening) now,” he said.

Jill Tettmann, CEO of the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, said she was “surprised that the original intent in conversations about the purpose of the building fell through.”

“It aligned with the values of the Y,” she said.

That doesn’t mean it was a mistake for the organization to sell the building, she added.

“I believe that (with) the information that we had at the time and the information we had based our decision on at the time, it was the best decision to make,” she said.

Wagg, who was chair of the YMCA board before leaving at the end of 2020, said it was a “very, very difficult decision for the board to sell that building, but it was necessary for the viability of the Simcoe/Muskoka Y.”

“It’s important that the citizens of Orillia realize that because of the new recreation centre, the Orillia Y wouldn’t be able to sustain the model it had at the time,” he said.

The financial hit the organization took as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic was also a factor, he said, but “the writing was on the wall when the rec centre was built.”

Regarding the planned purpose of the facility, Wagg said, “I’m glad that the building is going to be used for health and wellness.”

While it is not going to be a facility for youth in need, Wagg noted the YMCA wanted to make that happen.

The organization asked city council in December 2020 to support its request for a ministerial zoning order to speed up the process of potentially turning the facility into a youth housing hub.

Council decided not to endorse that request, with some members raising concerns, fundamentally, about ministerial zoning orders and others saying a specific plan for the building was lacking.

“The Simcoe/Muskoka Y tried to get the zoning changed so we could get youth services there, but that was turned down,” Wagg said.

He isn’t ruling out services for youth being available elsewhere in the community, eventually.

“I think there’s room for another (YMCA) in Orillia,” he said, adding he has started talks with the organization about bringing the Y back in another, scaled-down facility.

“My mandate is to still bring a YMCA to Orillia in some fashion. The Y is near and dear to my heart and it will always be at the forefront of my philanthropic adventures.”

While the building is up for lease, the owner could decide to sell it in the future, Wagg said.

Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is an experienced multimedia journalist and editor who covers Orillia and other parts of Simcoe County.
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