Tri-County Patriots hopes grant boosts renovation plan

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living hopes a $1.5 million state grant to convert a former YWCA in Washington into a community center will lead to more support for the project.

The renovation expected to cost $8 million is designed to build space for the organization that helps people with disabilities, plus open up a gymnasium and other facilities that anyone could rent.

Though less than $50,000 in other funds have been raised so far, the grant announced last week “will convince potential donors the project has statewide support,” said Kathleen Kleinmann, Tri-County Patriots' chief executive officer.

Founded in 1990, Tri-County Patriots provides referral services, peer support and skills training to more than 500 people in Washington, Greene and Fayette counties with a variety of disabilities. Some are as young as age 9.

The organization plans to explore other funding sources to renovate the former YWCA on West Maiden Street.

“They were looking for a major player, and found one,” said principal architect Ken Kulak, referring to the grant from the state's Redevelopment Capital Assistance program.

Preliminary work on the building, including asbestos removal, has begun but renovations depend on further funding, said Kulak, director of architecture for Cservak Management Services LLC of McMurray.

Tri-County Patriots bought the three-level building for $325,000 about two years ago, Kleinmann said. The brick, Elizabethan Revival style structure housed a YWCA from 1929 to 2002.

“A lot of things are in place, but (architectural) details and moldings went into extreme decay,” Kulak said.

After renovations, the building would have three stories and an elevator for clients' use, plus facilities including a gymnasium with a stage that Kleinmann said could be rented to the public on evenings and weekends. Wellness programs could be held in the gym, which will have exercise equipment.

Rooms would be built for training aides to work with Tri-County Patriots clients, and the center would have a cafe with wireless computer access. The building would be fully handicapped accessible, and include green features such as water reuse and solar panel equipment, Kulak said.

Buying the building was part of a strategic plan developed four years ago, Kleinmann said. The former YWCA is more than double the size of the Tri-County Patriots headquarters a few blocks away on East Beau Street.

“We needed more room,” Kleinmann said. “Instead of rebuilding, we thought it would be better to make use of a vacant building.”

Eric Crunick, treasurer of the Tri-County Patriots board, said there was some worry about the project.

“With it being an older building, there was trepidation if we can handle this,” Crunick said. “But Kathleen has a vision, and the heavy lifting is being done.

“It's a beautiful structure we hope will be helping other people, not only clients.”

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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