Dowd YMCA just 4 weeks from opening massive expansion that will compete with the best of Charlotte fitness

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The YMCA of Greater Charlotte is close to finishing a massive renovation and expansion of its flagship Dowd branch near Uptown.

While the 40,000-square-foot building is still swarming with workers, progress is moving quickly. This week, the Y is taking members on hard-hat tours behind the scenes. Fitness equipment will start moving in next week.

A soft opening is planned for July 8, with a grand opening celebration July 15.

The Dowd Y expansion, as seen from Morehead Street.

The $29 million project is an investment in the YMCA’s future.

While still the busiest branch in the Charlotte YMCA network by far, the Dowd — which opened in 1960 — had grown to feel a bit closed-in and dated amidst the city’s booming fitness scene.

The new addition will allow the Y to compete with both massive gyms like Life Time Athletic and Charlotte’s numerous boutique fitness studios. With a new open floor plan, the new Dowd will feel much larger and offer wellness services that feel on par with big-box mega-gyms.

But the Y is also building out specialty spaces for CrossFit, cycle, yoga, pilates and sports performance that will be on par with high-dollar boutiques.

The renovation also takes full advantage of the institution’s premium location.

Natural light will be ever-present in the new building, offering skyline views that will be difficult to match. The Dowd YMCA fronts Morehead Street just south of Uptown, and I-277 all but ensures that its vantage point will remain unobscured.

The 5th-floor exercise deck will be the star of the show.

With the capacity to hold more than 500 people, the rooftop patio will have a central turf area ringed by a track offering a unique view of Uptown.

This area will host exercise classes — think tire flipping and sled-pushing — as well as family movie nights and other programming.

Holy cow, look at this view.

But the new group exercise facilities will have the biggest impact.

Right now, the Dowd YMCA doesn’t really have dedicated group exercise space in a city that’s obsessed with fitness classes. Most classes are held in basketball gyms or a conference room repurposed into a yoga studio.

The expansion will have dedicated space for the Dowd’s most popular classes. Most of it will be free of additional charge for members.

Instead of wheeling out mobile barres into a gym, the Dowd’s new barre studio will have built-in equipment and mirrors.

Rendering of the new Dowd Y barre studio.

The new 3,200-square-foot yoga studio is more than three times the current yoga space and will have infrared heating technology for hot yoga.

There will also be a new cycle studio, Pilates reformer studio, CrossFit gym and sports performance center. All of it will have wireless audio tech. No more speaker towers or mic screeches.

The idea is that Charlotte fitness buffs will be able to have a YMCA membership instead of having to cobble together memberships at pricey boutiques.

All construction should be complete by the end of 2018.

Other touches will be appreciated by long-time members. Free weights will be moved out of the Dowd basement and into the expansion building.

The entrance area will be streamlined, making it easier to scan in. There will be more connectivity between parking areas and the lobby. A shaded area by the Morehead Street entrance will let people gather for group jogs.

There will also be a new Atrium Health facility built in that will have primary care doctors as well as rehab specialists.

After the July opening, the second phase of renovations will touch up other parts of the Dowd between summer and fall. The childcare area will be doubled in size and the pool will get a renovated locker area.

All construction is expected to be done by November.

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Andrew Dunn
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