Award Winner - May 2010
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Blue Water YMCA

Port Huron, Michigan

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

TMP Architecture in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Size: 65,295 square feet

Project Cost: $15.39 million

Quick Tour:

  • 6-lane competition pool
  • Recreation pool
  • Two slides, lazy river, rotating vortex
  • Duffy Wellness Center with cardio and weight training
  • Multipurpose rooms
  • 1 1/2 court gym
  • Group fitness area
  • Outdoor play area and equipment
  • Child care suite
  • Preschool
  • Men, Boys, Women, Girls and Family changing areas
  • Office space
  • Concessions area


he Blue Water YMCA has a long history of serving the community, providing excellent programs in less-than-desirable facilities for many years. As the infrastructure of their existing building continued to decline, the board of directors began to consider that rather than renovating, a new structure would be a better option, providing improved adjacencies and the proper floor area for critical functions. The new facility provides a state-of-the-art tool to provide even better programming in a warm, spacious environment with great views of the adjacent St. Clair River.

The new Y was primarily financed through pledged donations, a testimony to the value this project holds within the community. The developer of the riverfront area donated the site. The site itself represents a long-term vision to gentrify an unused toxic-laden industrial strip of land along the St. Clair River in Port Huron. Prior to donating the land, the developer underwent an extensive site preparation process, including excavation, pumping and disposal of hazardous waste.

Construction materials were selected for their proven longevity, low maintenance and visual excitement. The result is a timeless aesthetic evoking the architectural vocabulary of the industrial structures that occupied the site long ago. The exterior design with its use of large glass panels, brick piers and stone ascents recalls the old industrial loft imagery of the past, and creates generous views.

The transparency of the design creates an inherently exciting environment for users. People can see through the building and enjoy views of the river. Other activities occurring throughout the building are also visible, which allows parents and administrative personnel to monitor activities easily and with minimal staff.

The visual access to other spaces creates a comfortable and safe environment. Patrons can stroll through the concourse and observe various activities without physically entering the spaces.

The facility is organized around a central spine with a public entry at each end, with a third entry that provides controlled, secure access to the child care center. Patrons get a dramatic view from the upper lobby into the aquatics center, the gymnasium and the St. Clair River.

Poor soil conditions on the site required the use of deep foundations. The building is constructed on 90-foot-deep concrete piles supporting a concrete floor slab as well as the individual pool tubs. This foundation added cost, but was deemed worth the effort to capture the inherent excitement of the busy river. Visitors are treated to close-up views of ocean freighters from all over the world as they float by at close range.

The tremendous effort taken was a true investment in the Port Huron community, assisting in the transformation of a forgotten piece of land that was a former eyesore and a reminder of faded glory. The new YMCA and indeed the renewal of this area is a prime example of the benefits of community participation, commitment and leadership.


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

"Nice transparency. Large amounts of glass animates the exterior. Nicely connected at different levels."

Erik Kocher

"The exterior elevation reads as this wonderful billboard displaying the "Y" activities."

Frank Beans

"Visual transparency supports the 'see and be seen' and as such, can provide a comfort level to parents and excitement among friends."

Susan Wallover

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Mechanical/Electrical Engineer: Peter Basso Associates

Civil/Surveyor: T.R. Valentine/Hennessey Engineers

Pool Consultants: Counsilman/Hunsaker & Associates

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