Detroiters bid farewell to beloved YMCA as demolition begins on run-down building

It was a day of melancholy for many who spent their childhood at the Hannan Memorial YMCA in Detroit as officials began demolition of the century-old complex.

A staple of East Jefferson for decades, the dilapidated building fell into disrepair and required a dramatic solution: restoration or demolition. The decision by the city to remove the building entirely has left some having a hard time letting go.

"It’s a crying shame," said Jim Hudson, of New Baltimore. 

Hudson said he learned to swim at the YMCA. The first time he ever played a jukebox was also there - back in the 50s. 

"There’s so many memories here, it ain’t funny," he said.

For Vincent Wade, a Detroit resident who also grew up within the YMCA, it was where he stayed when his parents were working.

"She didn’t have nowhere to take us a lot of times when she had to work and my dad had to work, so she brought us to the YMCA. She worked at the Big Boy on Jefferson and the boulevard as a waitress. They watch us until she get home," he said.

It stood vacant for two decades before the city deemed it a hazard to the community.

"It’s about a 100-year-old building. It’s been dilapidated and roofless for about 20 years, and so it is a hazard to the community," said Joshua Roberson, the District 5 Manager. "So we're excited to get work started today."

Some, like Wade, would have preferred seeing it revived. But that process is "extremely expensive," Roberson said.

"(Saving it is) not as attractive to developers and so we're just trying to get the safety back to the neighborhood and the community," Roberson said. "So we're demolishing it today and hoping that new development will create a blank canvas for the neighborhood."

It's unclear what will become next of the property. It's current owner is the city of Detroit.