As its $9.5 million final phase progresses,
the JCC is banking on a new fitness wing
and Judaic center for revitalization.
spent today] in some phase of construction of JCCs
in Canada and the U.S. — some for new buildings,
some for renovation," says Alan Mann, senior vice
president of the Jewish Community Centers
Association, the New York City-based umbrella
agency for North American JCCs.
As community priorities change, JCCs must mod-
ernize to keep up with the times, he says. Coupled
with the need to change the JCCs are the changing
needs of the Jewish community over the last decade.
"Once run for adults, the JCC now is for fami-
lies," says Sharon Hart, Detroit JCC president.
he cranes have disappeared and brick is
beginning to hide steel girders as the new
silhouette emerges for the $7 million
health and fitness wing of the Jewish
Community Center in West Bloomfield.
"The entire south wing will create a new gym and
a state-of-the-art fitness center built from the
ground up," says the Jewish Community Center of
Metropolitan Detroit's executive director, David
Sorkin. Existing fitness areas also are
receiving a facelift.
Occupying space between the origi-
nal D. Dan and Berry Kahn Building
and the Holocaust Memorial Center,
this 18,000-square-foot centerpiece is
part of the third and final phase of the
JCC's most ambitious undertaking in
its 76-year history. The wing will be
completed in mid-2003; it doubles the
size of the fitness area.
Phase III also includes administrative
offices moving to the second floor at a
cost of $500,000; the Henry and Delia
Meyers Library in the lower level, also
at $500,000; and the crowning jewel
— the $1.5 million media-savvy, state-
of-the-art Harry and Jeanette Weinberg
JCC member Herb Gardner; 67, of Bloomfield Township on a
Judaic Enrichment Center, just off the
main entrance on the first floor.
The cost of Phase III renovations total Opposite page: JCC construction continues in West Bloomfield.
"Families now can spend the day in the Center —
The $33-million, five-year renewal plan that
adults in the health club, various activities for youth,
began in 1998 aims for nothing short of reinventing
and all can share lunch and dinner together."
the JCC, Sorkin says. He, among others, hopes to
What she's saying jibes with the 1997 Bloom
revitalize the Center and its mission — no easy task
Report, a local study that "saw the Jewish Center as
since the West Bloomfield facility is the largest-sized
a Jewish gathering place regardless of affiliation, age
JCC in the United States.
But renovation also is a matter of survival — not only and ability," says Margo Weitzer, JCC assistant exec-
utive director. "All kinds of Jews come here, even
for Detroit's JCC, but for many around the country.
those who haven't figured out how to connect to the
"We estimate that a half-billion dollars [is being
Hannan Lis, vice president of the JCC board,
adds that the Center also provides services for the
more vulnerable in the community — new immi-
grants, the elderly, children and adults with special
needs, single parents and retired individuals.
"Our mission goes beyond sports and fitness," he says.
Yet, to sustain itself and fund these programs, the
local JCC, like others in North America, is counting
on the new health and fitness wing to bring in the
much-needed revenue to support all it wants to
The New Look
Before undertaking its extensive renovation, the JCC
studied other JCCs that renovated or added a new
fitness center, as in Baltimore and Atlanta, where, in
some cases, membership doubled or tripled (see
chart, page 54).
"Our membership in the past three years has gone
from 13,000 to 20,000," says Buddy Sapolsky, JCC
executive director in Baltimore, a city whose Jewish
population is comparable to Detroit's, which is
about 96,000. "What brings them in? Upgrading
sub-standard facilities [the fitness center tripled in
size]. Our two facilities were built in 1964 and 1977
and in need of major fix-ups."
Fix-ups in Baltimore included building an indoor
track, a second gymnasium, a ballfield complex, an
outdoor Little League baseball stadium, an inline
hockey rink and a new preschool.
Sandra Crane, assistant director of the Atlanta
JCC, says membership "almost doubled" to 17,000
after a $19 million renovation in the southern city.
Atlanta's Jewish community also is about the size of
"We never had a fitness center or a state-of-the-art
theater or a main street — a long pedestrian area
where people meet indoors," Crane says of renovations
SURVIVAL on page 54