Low-income Madison families will have an additional option for inexpensive housing following last week’s completion of three years and $16 million of renovation on the historic downtown YWCA.
The renovation, meant to update the building to create a more comfortable living quarter while maintaining the former hotel’s historic character, is expected to house more than 100 struggling Madisonians of all ages.
The 12-story YWCA, once known as the New Belmont Hotel, has been restored to its original tile and carpeting, refurnished and equipped with modern appliances in an effort to make the building posses less of an institutional feeling.
YWCA Chief Executive Officer Eileen Mershart said she hopes the 150 current residents have found even more reason to call the building home through the renovations.
“We wanted to ensure that our residents have a safe and affordable place to live,” Mershart said. “At the end of the day, it’s really not about bricks and mortar, but the fact that this is home to a lot of kids and a lot of women that need a safe place to live”.
The building provides permanent housing for families with low income, and Mershart said the residents were not asked to relocate outside of the building during any of the renovations.
Among the installation of new appliances are energy-efficient windows, florescent lights and improved heating and cooling.
“We did a complete rehab of the building all the way from the subbasement right up to the roof of the building with new masonry,” Mershart said.
Mershart said the contractors worked with Focus on Energy, and added she hopes with sufficient research they will be able to reveal future savings in energy costs for the building.
The first two floors of the building have seen the most change, with new furniture in the apartments and office space – changes that came without expense to the residents.
Discovering serious water issues in the basement of the building prompted Mershart to begin plans on refurbishing the YWCA, but she said it took three years to finish because of complicated financing.
Receiving its $9.8 million grant through Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority took one year, and Mershart said additional grants took time to write and close.
Mershart said the YWCA started the Real Lives, Real Change campaign to raise money for the project. The public has donated $1.8 million since the campaign started.
The YWCA is involved in many different programs around the city, such as offering affordable housing on East Mifflin Street, free transportation to low income people and helping to find permanent housing outside of the building’s units.
“They do a lot of great things,” Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said. “The building they renovated is an historic gem and a beautiful landmark of downtown Madison, and I appreciate the fine way that the YWCA has restored the old Belmont Hotel as close to its original grandeur as possible.”
Verveer said the YWCA has worked toward a functional design for the past three years that works for them and their residents, but said the most significant success of their project has been in restoring a city landmark.
“They’ve been a great neighbor all around and I’m glad they are here to stay,” Verveer said.