The Demolished New City YMCA Lives On at the New NEWCITY

NEWCITY Heritage Installation (Courtesy of  Structured Development)

NEWCITY Heritage Installation (Courtesy of Structured Development)

For a couple of years we’ve been updating you on the progress of NewCity (now “NEWCITY”), the mixed-use development at the corner of North Halsted Street and North Clybourn Avenue in Goose Island.

The New City development replaced the old New City YMCA, which was sold in 2007 for $54 million. It was known for its bright paint job both by the 8,000 families who went there, and by people in the neighborhood who simply passed by.

The Y was a miniature melting pot on the north side, catering to both the well-heeled old money of Lincoln Park, and the people struggling along in Cabrini Green. Unexpectedly, it was the poor people who were the key to its survival, and the reason it closed.

When the city of Chicago started flattening the Cabrini Green development and relocating its residents, membership at the New City YMCA fell below sustainable levels, and it was sold. Instead of relocating, the money was put into community programs and into the YMCA’s endowment so that it could benefit other Y facilities across the city.

Now parts of the old Y have come back at the new New City.

Media Objectives, part of Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, salvaged some of the bricks from the old Y and put together three pieces of art now on display at New City.

The art helps brighten up the project’s ground floor walkway and remind the people who live and shop there now of what once was. They aren’t in their original configuration, obviously, because that wouldn’t fit inside another building. But they are the original glazed bricks that were known so well in this north side enclave.

More information in the press release below the pictures.


For nearly three decades, the New City YMCA on the north side of Chicago brought together residents from the affluent Lincoln Park neighborhood to the north and the Cabrini-Green public housing complex to the south. Membership declined in the late 1990s as the city began demolishing Cabrini-Green, however, and the YMCA sold the site to developers. A new, one-million-square-foot mixed-use development went up in its place.

Dubbed NEWCITY, the three building complex consists of a high-rise residential tower and extensive retail and commercial office space. Media Objectives, an experiential design studio at Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, was brought in to design a public installation that would both enliven the high-rise building’s ground-floor pedestrian throughway, which connects the street to the courtyard, and preserve the site’s heritage by celebrating the spirit of the former YMCA.

Designed in 1981, the YMCA had featured a brightly colored glazed brick façade. To reconstruct and embody the vibrancy and connection that the building represented, the team created an installation made of three structures, each constructed of glazed bricks salvaged from the original YMCA. The bricks were restacked to form three wall segments, each raised above the floor within raw steel frames that express the rise of a community.

Each side of the installation represents a defining aspect of the former YMCA. The front of each of the three segments references the original building’s façade, while the back of each segment features a mosaic of the different colored bricks, symbolizing the YMCA’s role in bringing “two worlds” together—a grounding concept behind the architecture of the original building.

Complementing the structure is an expansive wall treatment on the side of the pedestrian throughway featuring a modern typographic pattern of words and phrases, chosen to express what the YMCA meant to the community. Examples include “safe haven,” “rejuvenation,” “inclusivity,” and “a shared memory.” The typography reflects the contemporary design of the mixed-use development. An information panel behind the structures tells the full story of the YMCA. Together, the structure and wall treatment celebrate diversity and community.

Location: 1515 North Halsted Street, Goose island

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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