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The Cherry Street YMCA is part of a 10-year, $250-million expansion plan.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The YMCA will unveil its new community centre on Cherry Street with a "topping off" celebration on Wednesday to mark reaching the building's tallest point.

The West Don Lands facility is the first of five new centres the YMCA has set out to build in under-served Toronto neighbourhoods, part of a 10-year, $250-million expansion plan.

"We want to make sure we go out to those communities where there has been tremendous growth," said Katherine Alyea, the vice-president of philanthropy for the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

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This particular facility is the only YMCA centre in the works to serve a neighbourhood that is still being built. Until recently, the area of the West Don Lands was underdeveloped.

"It was completely derelict, there was nothing," said Cynthia Wilkey, chair of the West Don Lands committee. "Nobody lived there."

Even now, only a small number of people live in the neighbourhood, most of whom moved there in the past couple of months.

After the Pan Am Games, however, Ms. Wilkey said she expects a flood of residents into the area. The Cherry Street location will initially operate as a training facility for athletes, after which the YMCA will take ownership and open it to the community. The residential population is expected to rise 13.5 per cent by 2020, Ms. Alyea said.

"This is going to be a really, really, very high growth area of the city," she said.

The YMCA expects the incoming population will consist primarily of young families, visible minorities, immigrants, low-income groups and George Brown College students. The area currently has next to nothing in the way of community services. But Ms. Wilkey said the new YMCA centre can act as a community hub as the area grows.

"There is a lot of work that I think needs to be done to create that sense of community," she said. "I'm hoping that the Y will be a very active partner for the community in doing that."

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Ms. Alyea said the Pan Am Games connection has been a big boost. "A lot of time with partnerships, there's a lot of things that the first partner might not realize that a greater centre of the community will need … but because [we have the] chance to be involved from the beginning, they are building with the community in mind."

She said the 82,000 square-foot centre will have pool and gym facilities, but will also reflect the particular needs of the West Don Lands by offering unique services, such as language and job-assistance programs for newcomers.

The YMCA plans to hold community engagement meetings over the next year to determine what these services will be.

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