For the past two years, administrators and board members at the YWCA Bradford have made plans for creating a new center for the facility at the site of the former Second Ward School on Congress Street.
On Wednesday, the agency moved a step closer to that dream with the beginning of demolition work at the school building that had its earliest beginnings on the site in 1877. The current structure was built in 1934 followed by add-ons in the 1950s.
The building, which closed as a school in 1997 and was used to house a business for several years, was purchased by the YW in 2017 after standing empty for a number of years.
“This is symbolic of good forward movement,” said Vanessa Castano, YW executive director earlier this week. “We’re planning on wrapping up our campaigning next year and hope to start building in 2021.”
Castano and workmen at the site said the demolition work should take anywhere from six weeks to two months, depending on how quickly the ground freezes this winter.
“They may have to come back in the spring, just depending on the weather,” she added.
In July, YW administrators and board members announced they had “rebooted” plans for the capital campaign project for the agency’s new headquarters and shelter.
The agency scrapped plans to renovate the school building for a new concept that includes demolishing the building and constructing a 13,000 square-foot structure that would provide both long-term and short-term savings. YW administrators said the new project is expected to cost approximately $4.1 million to complete, with $1.2 million already raised through the campaign.
The new architectural team for the project, Larson-Karle Associates of Warren, have designed a rectangular, one-story building that will comprise programs, services and counseling spaces.
The front door of the headquarters will face South Avenue.
A two-story shelter will also be constructed on the property, but not connected to the main building. There is expected to be ample parking space on the site.
“Our main priority is to secure funding for the programs and services building (main structure), and funding for at least one (floor) of the shelter,” she explained. If the agency doesn’t have enough to construct the upper floor of the shelter, they plan to construct it at a later date when funding is secured. Castano said the agency will ensure there is enough shelter space at different locations in the community to aid the homeless during the building process of the new shelter.
As for the demolition of the building, Castano said she has heard positive remarks in the community about the project.
“I think there is sadness in the nostalgia, but it seems like everybody we’ve talked to expressed good memories, and are glad to see something productive going on in that space,” Castano said.
Molly Lindahl, researcher-genealogist at Bradford Landmark Society, said the nonprofit agency also sees the demolition as a progressive move, considering the dilapidated condition of the structure.
“But I think for every building that goes down, it’s a sad occasion,” she admitted.