Johnson Family YMCA breaks ground on $3.5M expansion, renovation

Project will create state-of-the-art Teen Center, new swimming pool

(From left to right) Dr. Irvin Cohen, executive director of the Johnson Family Y & VP of Social Responsibility; Quiwanaki Ramsey, Teen Program graduate; Wanda Jones, chair of the Johnson Family YMCA Advisory Board; Peggy Bryan, Chair, Metropolitan Board of Directors; and Eric K. Mann, President and CEO, YMCA of Florida’s First Coast.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA celebrated the start of its highly-anticipated $3.5 million expansion and renovation project with a special groundbreaking ceremony on Monday. 

More than 150 guests gathered near the project’s construction site to listen to remarks from Dr. Charles Moreland, Director of Community Affairs for Mayor Lenny Curry; Eric K. Mann, First Coast YMCA President and CEO, Peggy Bryan, Chair, Metropolitan Board of Directors; and Dr. Irvin Cohen, Johnson Family YMCA Executive Director. 

When complete, the Johnson Family Y will have an all-new state-of-the-art Teen Center, Pre-Teen Center, new swimming pool and renovated wellness center. 

“At the Y, we believe it is our responsibility to help children and teens realize their potential and to provide the necessary tools and resources to help our neighbors achieve health and well-being,” Mann said. “We know that the lives we transform now through this project will bring about meaningful, enduring change in the Johnson Family YMCA community and across the First Coast for generations to come.”

Phase I of the Johnson Y expansion project includes construction of a separate, state-of-the-art, Teen Center building and new swimming pool. The new Teen Center will be equipped to serve over 100 students ages 14-18 with enriching opportunities through its Teen Forward program. The building will add 4,000 square feet of space for this program and includes a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) laboratory, teaching kitchen, computer lab, recording studio and gaming area. This is the only after school programming of its kind offered for high schoolers in the area.

“I grew up in this community and I’ve seen firsthand the impact that the Johnson Family YMCA has had on this neighborhood, especially our youth, who come to play sports, connect with peers and gain life skills,” Cohen said. “In today’s society, it is crucial for teenagers to have an engaging space to come after school and over the summer that supports their physical, spiritual and intellectual well-being. The new Teen and Pre-Teen Centers will provide us with the space and resources to enrich the lives of our next generation of leaders.” 

In addition to the Teen and Pre-Teen center, the new swimming pool will allow the Y to expand its signature Safety Around Water drowning prevention program to reach more kids, while also creating 10-15 new jobs at the Y in Teen Center programming and aquatics. 

Both the Teen Center building, Pre-Teen space and the new swimming pool are slated to be complete by the end of 2018. 

For more information about the Johnson Family YMCA, visit