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New City Development Pays Homage To Site's History With Art Installation

By Mina Bloom | August 1, 2016 5:42am | Updated on August 2, 2016 6:59am
 A New City complex art installation uses salvaged bricks from the New City YMCA.
A New City complex art installation uses salvaged bricks from the New City YMCA.
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LINCOLN PARK — The same colorful glazed bricks that covered the New City YMCA are now on display at the massive development that has taken its place. 

The folks behind the New City complex, 1500 N. Clybourn Ave., recently unveiled a new public art installation using salvaged bricks from the New City YMCA to brighten the pedestrian walkway that connects the street to the courtyard.

Structured Development enlisted branding studio Media Objectives and Chicago-based architecture firm Valerio Dewalt Train Associates to help construct the installation, which includes three brick wall segments raised above the floor.

A closer look at the New City art installation. [Provided]

The installation is designed to "honor the space that served so many Chicago families in the 1980s and early 1990s," a spokeswoman said.

Before the massive complex was built, the land was home to the New City YMCA, which was a hub of diversity for nearly three decades. The club brought together residents from the Cabrini-Green housing projects and affluent Lincoln Park. 

The architect, Ralph Youngren, said at the time of its opening in 1981, that he used the colorful bricks to "shake the image of the smelly basement and the old swimming pool" many people associated with Ys at the time.

"We didn't want this to be a background building. It had to be a building people would notice," he told the Tribune at the time. The east and west sides of the building looked similar in order to tell both the CHA residents and the Lincoln Park residents that it was a building for both of the groups.

"It's a fascinating situation: Two worlds coming together," Youngren said then.

When the projects were torn down in the 1990s, membership at the YMCA began to dwindle. In 2007, the YMCA was torn down and Structured Development bought the land to build anew. The project broke ground in 2013 and opened to the public in the fall.

The 8½-acre development includes 380,000 square feet of retail space, a 1,100-car parking garage and a 19-story tower with 199 apartments. 

The exterior of the New City YMCA when it was standing. [Courtesy/Robert Powers]

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