University YMCA
University YMCAthe Y | service, reflection and action since 1873
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The University YMCA moved into this historic building in 1938.

The Y was founded in 1872, and lived in four different buildings until the 1930s, including Illini Hall! (In fact, you can still see the Y symbol carved into Illini Hall's limestone above the Wright St. door.) In 1938, the Y moved for the fifth time into the current building. Our historic building generates a healthy portion of our annual budget and is a home away from home for many students. After examining our mission, the importance of the building, and new Principles of Stewardship in 2009, the Board chose some specific mission-oriented goals for the building's ongoing renovation and maintenance:

Building Green

Protecting the Integrity of Our Natural World: An important part of our mission is “protecting the integrity of our natural world.” One of the most significant changes to our initial renovation plans included a commitment to seek LEED certification as a green building and the adoption of plans that would lead to a more sustainable, energy efficient facility. Although achieving these goals has significant challenges and costs in an old building, our Board is determined to ‘walk the talk” and accepted this challenge as a model for others. As a result, the renovation incorporated a number of green features including:

  • Using energy saving technologies (i.e., motion and CO2 sensors)
  • New water efficient bathroom fixtures and high efficiency lighting
  • Purchasing low VOC materials for items such as paint, carpeting and adhesives
  • Improved indoor air quality upgrading HVAC, circulation and ventilation

Diversity and Inclusiveness

Tearing Down Barriers: The University YMCA has long advocated the rights of all citizens to fully participate in society, yet our building remained largely inaccessible to people with disabilities. Although our initial plans called for the installation of an elevator, only the first floor had an accessible bathroom. Our revised goals include renovating all bathrooms so they are ADA compliant. With Phase I we have renovated the bathrooms on the 2nd floor. The basement bathrooms are scheduled for renovation as part of Phase II of our renovation plans.

Civic Engagement

Building Student Leaders: As we renewed our vision of the building as part of our programs, we reached out to students to help research and develop strategies as well as implement changes that will lead to a more sustainable facility. The result was the formation of five “Working Groups” of students from many different academic disciplines including engineering, architecture, and natural resources. Today, this project is an official University class (ENG 315), where students earn credit tackling challenges such as water conservation, energy use and lighting, indoor air quality, waste management, sustainable purchasing policies and practices, landscape management and site restoration. These working groups are developing a long term vision and creative solutions such as a rain garden or green roof, while advancing their own commitment to protecting our environment.

Investing in our Building

Although not as exciting as other aspects of the project, we are upgrading all systems (HVAC, electrical, plumbing etc) whenever doing renovation work, rather than delay these investments. At the same time, we are relocating our offices to better utilize the first floor for Y programs, staff and students.

Art @ the Y

Innovation, Collaboration and Creativity: When our Board approved “Art @ the Y” as a new program, it was seen as an innovative way to advance our mission using art and creative expressions. In light of our principles of stewardship, this project includes upgrading equipment and renovating space to accommodate a new emphasis on arts programming. Improvements include remodeling Murphy Lounge and creating a new gallery that will sponsor several rotating art exhibits each year. We also upgraded the audio and video systems in Latzer Hall making it possible for us to sponsor arts programming such as the Global Lens film series featuring award-winning independent world movies that promote cross-cultural understanding through the medium of cinema.

Our Building as a Program

Renewing our Vision: There are other program initiatives we are considering that reflect the decision to view our building as way to advance our mission. Many are long-term ideas that are being explored. For example, the dorms on our third floor have provided university students affordable housing close to campus. But using the Principles of Stewardship, it has been suggested that we explore a “living and learning community” for students interested in environmental, social justice or other mission related issues.


Please support the ongoing renovations by learning more about Capital Campaign or visiting the Support Us page to give now.