04-031 YMCA Charlotte Street Facilities Expansion no border
YMCA of Cape Breton Charlotte Street Facilities
Sydney, Nova Scotia

The YMCA of Cape Breton commissioned Trifos Design Consultants to assess, plan, design, and administer the expansions to their main, downtown-Sydney facilities. The new expansion of the YMCA of Cape Breton combines the best physical aspects of the existing building with newly-constructed program space and state-of-the-art recreation facilities.

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The renewal strategy for the very prominent building project consists of three phases, executed over a three-year period. New program spaces were constructed on the existing, available lot area, followed by demolition and relocation of existing facilities and services. The challenge for the design team was the development of a phasing strategy that would allow the facility to remain operational throughout the entire renovation process.


The existing building consists of two major wings, completed during two different decades, and were ultimately conjoined. The lack of a coherent master strategy was evident by the varying material qualities, construction techniques, standards, and finishes. Careful analysis of the two disparate portions of the existing facility ultimately resulted in the formulation of an effective master strategy for demolition, renovation, and expansion the Charlotte Street facilities.

The older, mid-1900s building had reached the end of its expected lifespan, and the cost to repair the structure and upgrade the existing systems exceeded the cost of new building construction. Consequently, this older portion of the building was demolished, in order to make room for new construction.

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The 1970s building addition construction was never completed as designed, due to insufficient funding. Additionally, subsequent alterations and modifications did not meet original design standards. Despite the haphazard nature of this addition, many aspects of the building were in good condition; however, upgrades to weatherproofing, HVAC systems, electrical systems, controls, and plumbing were required in order to accommodate new infrastructure.

A master strategy was conceived that created the best possible flow between the different aspects of the 1970s building, while achieving the main project initiative of revitalizing the aging structure, while keeping the YMCA facilities operational.

The YMCA of Cape Breton’s Charlotte Street building is a very vital edifice on Sydney’s main street, with facility operations extending from early morning until late at night. The strong community identity and social magnetism of the existing facility made for a compelling argument for renovation and expansion on the existing site, as opposed to executing new construction at a different location. Ultimately, the YMCA of Cape Breton’s identity in the downtown proved to be an invaluable feature, and attracted financial support from the community, as well as from various levels of government.
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The newly expanded YMCA of Cape Breton evokes a distinct and visible presence on Sydney’s Charlotte Street. It is hoped that the expanded and revitalized facility will be a catalyst for further downtown revitalization, and that the YMCA of Cape Breton will continue to be a vital component of a vibrant, dynamic downtown Sydney for many generations to come.