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Bid deadline closes on Smith Family YMCA

Will County submits offer for building and property on last day

Rex Robinson | 5/26/2021, 8:10 p.m.
The Will County Board on Friday was the latest to make an offer to purchase the former Smith Family YMCA ...

The Will County Board on Friday was the latest to make an offer to purchase the former Smith Family YMCA on Joliet’s East Side.

The board adopted a resolution on Thursday authorizing the approval and submission of a letter of intent for the proposed purchase of the 26.5-acre parcel and 28,000-square-foot building at 1350 Briggs St. The letter was submitted to the Greater Joliet Area YMCA.

The Morning Star Mission homeless shelter in Joliet also had submitted a letter of intent and other non-profits have as well. The county’s bid came in just under the wire. The deadline to submit bids on the property was Friday, May 21.

“We invited all interested organizations to submit an offer to purchase,” said Jim Watts, President and CEO of the Great Joliet Area YMCA. “Our Board of Directors is in the process of evaluating bids - there is more than one. We do not have a firm timetable for making a decision.”

The YMCA Board’s criteria for its decision, according to Watts, are highest value for the YMCA – which organization presents the best option for the YMCA in closing/purchase, and is the organization’s mission aligned with service to those in the 60433 Zip code?

Will county’s intent for the building and property is multi-pronged. The plan is to transform the site into a proposed food hub that would include a food processing and packaging facility for food grown on site and brought in by Will County farmers. It would also include a commercial kitchen/commissary with a food preparation training program for Will County entrepreneurs to create value added products for sale and distribution. It would include space to conduct a food growing training program focused on traditional farming and exterior and interior hydroponic growing, a grocery store, a full-service day care, and a place to host senior activities and summer programs. Food produced in the kitchen would be sold at local grocery co-ops through the Will County Food Hub. The training programs and commissary would be managed by the National Hook-up of Black Women, Inc. Joliet Chapter. The food hub and processing facility would be managed by Illinois Partners in Hope.

The remaining property would be developed to provide housing for homeless or housing insecure veterans. It would be developed by the Veterans Community Project to provide permanent supportive housing to the homeless and the at-risk homeless veteran population in Will County. The Will County Veterans Assistance Commission would manage all supportive services to the veterans housed in the housing community.

The building and property are within District 8 which is served by Will County Board member Denise Winfrey (D-Joliet) and Will County Board member Herb Brooks (D-Joliet).

“I fully support this project. I believe it meets the intent of what the YMCA wants to have happen in the community and I look forward to the many services that will be provided for our residents,” Winfrey said. “It covers so many things that are needed in that area.”

In addition to food and farming and housing for veterans, the county would offer programs to assist veterans and others with jobs skills training and education, including attaining a GED, which are designed to enable people to find and keep living wage jobs, allowing veterans and others to become self-sustaining citizens.

The Smith Family YMCA closed at the end of March because of financial troubles related to the COVID pandemic and a bad economy, according to officials from the Greater Joliet Area YMCA.