Hundreds of people turned out at the Wilton branch of the Riverbrook Regional YMCA on Thursday to sign their names to a beam that is part of a $15-million expansion of the building at 404 Danbury Road. After the names were added, the beam, with a small evergreen tree attached in its middle, was hoisted in place to the cheers of onlookers.
“Being that we are 40 percent through the expansion, and seeing the community gather from children to seniors to families, including members of the Kiwanis Club who founded the Y — we are thrilled to have this day and the support of the community,” YMCA Executive Eirector Bob McDowell told The Bulletin. “Being part of the commuity is what we’re working to do.”
Placing a small tree atop a newly constructed building is an old tradition called the topping-out ceremony. While similar to the laying of a cornerstones or a ribbon-cutting, it differs in that it does not mark the beginning or end of a project, but that the project has reached its highest point.
There are some who believe the tree symbolizes the hope that the building will be long-lasting. Others, according to an article in slate.com, believe the rising greenery symbolizes “the birth of life” as seen in the new building.
Following the ceremony, guests were treated to a free lunch from the ice cream and food trucks at the Y.
With the expansion costing $15 million, the YMCA is working to raise $7.5 million. So far, $6.7 million has been raised, according to Christene Freedman, the Y’s director of development. The Y will borrow the rest, she said, with Fairfield County Bank as its lender.
The target completion date is around Thanksgiving, she said.
Renovation on the building started in February and has seen substantial progress over the last few months including:
- Work on the new modernized locker rooms that will include family changing areas and accessible space for seniors and people with special needs.
- The frame for the second-floor fitness center.
- Expansion of the lobby.
- A new Kids Club babysitting room.
In addition, when the renovation is completer there will be:
- A new Wellness Center, double in size and equipped with new strength and cardio equipment.
- Four dedicated group exercise studios.
- A new Kids Club room for babysitting services.
- A new drop-off zone in the parking lot with a walking path from the bridge to the main entrance of the YMCA building.
- Improvements to the 50-meter Melissa and Mark Nickel Memorial Pool.
The Kiwanis Club of Wilton purchased the land for the Y in 1956, and the first phase of the main building was completed in 1972. In the spring of 2015, the Wilton Family YMCA and the Norwalk YMCA merged, forming the Riverbrook Regional YMCA serving the entire city of Norwalk, through the Route 7 corridor, including Wilton, Georgetown and Redding. The YMCA’s mission focuses on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.