A partnership between the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg and Pinellas County Schools is almost complete, finished by a Clearwater contractor known for its work building schools and recreation centers.
Josh Bomstein, president of Creative Contractors of Clearwater, the project's general contractor, says the Speer Family YMCA at 495 62nd Ave. NE, St. Petersburg, is finished and started use in December. And the public middle school the YMCA has partnered with will be open in the spring and ready for a full school year in the fall.
The two entities will share more than 10,000 square feet, including a gym.
For Bomstein, who won the bid to build the unique pairing, the YMCA-and-school was a passion project. "It is very rewarding," says Bomstein. "Words cannot express how I feel in bringing it to life."
The $48 million project sought to "redefine community spaces and education," bringing together a new YMCA with a new middle school in northeast St. Petersburg, according to Creative Contractors.
The facilities sit on 19 acres where Riviera Middle School used to be. That middle school closed in 2008 and was demolished in 2010. What to do with the land became a decade-long question, but in late 2019 and early 2020, Pinellas County Schools began discussing the joint land use with the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. (The Pinellas County School Board decided to name the school Mangrove Bay Middle School.)
Bomstein says the school and YMCA will share about 10,700 square feet — including a gymnasium, a cafeteria, a kitchen and a "teaching" kitchen.
Separately, the YMCA will take up 43,191 square feet and the middle school 57,853 square feet.
Bomstein says the YMCA's aquatic center and the school's football facilities are all that's left. Supply chain problems caused the delay, Bomstein says.
According to Michael Grego, superintendent of Pinellas County Schools, the facility is only the second of its kind in Florida. Speaking at the June 2022 groundbreaking, Grego said the facility "will provide state-of-the-art learning opportunities in a health and wellness magnet program, creating a seamless path for Pinellas County Schools students."
Bomstein says the joint usage will change a longtime underuse of resources common in communities across the nation. Usually when a school day ends, a school gymnasium goes dark and unused. Now, Bomstein says, the users of the Speer YMCA can come in and make use of the shared spaces.
That was not the only shared usage regarding the project, Bomstein says. For the first time that Bomstein could remember, Creative Contractors had to deal with two architects for one project. Those are Wannemacher Jensen and Harvard Jolly, both of St. Pete. That meant Creative Contractors had to make sure everyone was on the same page, which wasn't, in the end, a problem.
"Communication was everything on this project," says Bomstein. "It took a lot of extra attention and focus from the team."
Creative Contractors, founded in 1974 by Bomstein's father, specializes in schools, recreation centers, health care, municipal and commercial buildings. The company handled $194 million in volume in 2023.
Creative Contractors has completed 27 Pinellas County Schools projects and seven YMCA projects for Tampa Metropolitan, YMCA of the Suncoast and YMCA of St. Petersburg.