William A. Hunton YMCA


Norfolk, Virginia


32,000 square feet

Completion Date

Estimated 2026


An institution that has offered safe haven and opportunities to generations of citizens will begin a new life as a gateway and key landmark in transformed St. Paul’s Neighborhood in downtown Norfolk.

The William A. Hunton YMCA, founded in 1875, will leverage its 150-year history and legacy of lifting up the community to embrace an expanded role in a new facility that will offer enhanced opportunities and resources for its missions of early childhood education, civic and social meeting spaces, and programs to teach life skills, health and wellness, and more for everyone from children to great-great-grandparents.

The facility will be an aspirational resource for residents in the St. Paul’s neighborhood, which includes a diverse mix of housing representing 1/3 replacement units, 1/3 income-based units and 1/3 market-rate units. The transformed St. Paul’s replaces one of the oldest and largest public housing communities in the United States — and one with a high concentration of poverty.

The Hunton YMCA is one of four Heritage YMCA’s in the United States, established when People of Color were denied access to other YMCAs. It is also the oldest independent YMCA in the country. Through the years, it continued to offer services to the poor and near-poor, becoming much more than a fitness facility but a place for education, safety and security.

Highlights of the new facility include separate areas for upper and lower schools, a library, full-size gymnasium, kitchen and cafetorium, reception, administrative offices, facilities for health services, seniors, civic and community gatherings, two-story porches and an outdoor swimming pool. A private courtyard will embrace an arbor of mature trees. The site is immersed in the 26-acre Blue Greenway resilience park to protect the neighborhood from flooding.

Hunton staff, some of whom have been serving for more than 25 years, and board members participated in charrettes to design the new Y, prioritizing needs and aspirations. The City of Norfolk earmarked $6.5 million for the facility and gave the Hunton a deed to the land. It is hoped construction can begin in 2025, with completion in 2026.