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Thanks to more than $1 million in private business investments and state tax credits, Royal Square developers are pushing forward with plans to reinvigorate the Voni Grimes Gym.


Standing in the playground outside the gym Tuesday morning, city and state officials joined developers from RSDC, formerly Royal Square Development and Construction, to announce that funding had been secured to replace the roof and exterior of the gym, the “epicenter” of the Royal Square neighborhood.

The funds were made available through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development  Neighborhood Assistance Program, which is administered through YWCA York.

Five York County companies — Glatfelter Insurance Group, M&T Bank, Northwest Savings Bank, PeoplesBank and the York Water Co. — each agreed to invest $250,000 in the project over the next five years, said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin.

Though the program is “extremely competitive,” the funding application for the project to revitalize the Voni Grimes Gym and Royal Square neighborhood got the attention of state officials because it had so much backing from local private businesses, Davin said.

“If we want our communities to be thriving, attractive places to do business, we need business and community leaders to take an active role in helping make improvements that benefit residents, benefit the local community through the businesses and the community as a whole,” Davin said, thanking  officials from York City, York County and the five investing companies.

The East College Avenue property was the home of the York Collegiate Institute when it first opened in 1872, said Dylan Bauer, RSDC development director.  After a fire destroyed the building  in 1885, a new structure was built in 1916 to serve as a community gym.

More than 30 years ago, York City officials renamed the gym to honor Voni Grimes, a longtime community advocate, World War II veteran and York City native.

Exterior work: The roof and exterior renovations will be completed in year three of a multiyear  plan  using  Neighborhood Assistance Program funds in the Royal Square neighborhood.

In years one and two of the program, city officials and RSDC replaced lighting fixtures, trees and more than a half-mile of sidewalks around the 125 E. College Ave. gym,  Bauer said.

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With fourth-year funding from the Neighborhood Assistance Program, RSDC plans to improve the aesthetics of the gym, Bauer said.

The Voni Grimes Gym renovations will provide necessary stabilization and preservation for the building to ensure it continues to serve its central role in the neighborhood, said Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance.

The project “continues the evolution of neighborhood redevelopment” in York City, Schreiber said, with officials and developers working “block by block, building by building” to breathe new life into city neighborhoods.

“This is exactly how we revive the neighborhood,” said York City Mayor Kim Bracey.

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