Demolition in progress at the Salem YMCA on Nov. 15, 2019 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Customers at Salem’s IKE Box now have courtside seats to the historic YMCA building’s demolition over the coming weeks.

By the end of the year, the nearly century-old fitness center downtown and neighboring apartment building will be little more than a bare lot, clearing the way for construction of a new $20.5 million fitness center.

“There’s people who are excited because they know what’s coming and certainly there’s a lot of emotion attached to the building for people who have been longtime members,” said YMCA CEO Sam Carroll.

Those curious can watch a livestream of the demolition, which began last week, on the YMCA website.

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YMCA demolition livestream

The project still has about $6.6 million to raise, Carroll said. In January, YMCA leaders said they would take a bridge loan from a local foundation to begin construction while continuing to fundraise.

READ: Salem YMCA borrowing money to kick off fall construction on new gym

Carroll said he hoped to see more donors “now that the building’s coming down.”

Several other projects related to the YMCA demolition and construction are also on track, including an effort to preserve and relocate the Peace Mosaic fixed to the side of the Y’s former affordable housing complex, and to keep the historic IKE Box coffee shop in its current home.

Mark Bulgin, the coffee shop’s co-founder, hopes curiosity about demolition will draw customers in.

Bulgin, the director of nonprofit organization Isaac’s Room, which runs IKE Box, said business has dropped off in recent months, likely due to some customer confusion about whether the shop is closing or moving.

“We’re open and we’re staying open and we’re here for the long haul,” he said.

Moving parts

The cafe, located in a historic building that once served as a funeral home, had planned to relocate across the street at the century-old YMCA building was torn down. It sits on YMCA-owned land.

But after discussions between Bulgin, Carroll and leaders at First Presbyterian Church, the plan changed in July. IKE Box could remain where it sits on Cottage Street, providing Isaac’s Room buys the land from the YMCA.

READ: IKE Box now staying put as YMCA, Salem First Presbyterian consider land sales

The YMCA decided to build a new affordable apartment building across the street, leasing land from First Presbyterian.

Bulgin is now about halfway toward a $900,000 fundraising goal to buy the land IKE Box sits on so the coffee shop can continue providing job training to young people and earning money to support other programs.

They began raising money early this year toward relocating the historic building, a more expensive proposition. Bulgin said when plans changed over the summer, major donors told him to keep the money and use it to buy the land.

“It was just 110% support for rolling it over to this project,” Bulgin said.

The Peace Mosaic will be protected as the YMCA and next door apartment building are demolished in coming weeks. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

The Peace Mosaic will be covered with foam and plywood as demolition moves to the south side of the YMCA property. The plan is to remove the artwork in sections, store it and eventually relocate it to a new building adjacent to the Riverfront Park Carousel.

Salem’s parks board and public art commission have signed off on that plan.

READ: Peace mosaic advocates outline plan for move to Riverfront Carousel

Demolition crews will first remove the roof of the apartment building the mosaic sits on, then demolish from the inside to avoid damaging the artwork.

“Everybody’s keeping their fingers crossed,” said Lynn Takata, the artist behind the mosaic. “We’re grateful. I’m delighted it’s being saved. It’s just also a little bit scary.”

Most of the artwork is attached to masonry, but about 10% sits on brick, which will make it harder to remove. The board of Save the Salem Peace Mosaic, a nonprofit organization raising money for the move, has hired a structural engineer who will evaluate the mosaic after the second floor of the building is demolished, Takata said.

“It’s just been a technical masterpiece of choreography,” Takata said.

News tip? Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.