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Statesboro YMCA to add day care, lease clinic space to pediatrician
North wing to be added site for Dr. Zeanah’s practice
Statesboro Family YMCA operates in the much-renovated gym and nearest wing at what was the original Sallie Zetterower Elementary School campus. Now Dr. Michelle Zeanah will lease space in the north wing for expansion of her behavioral pediatrics practice, and the YMCA also is planning to add a childcare center. - photo by JIM HEALY/staff

YMCA of Coastal Georgia plans to add a childcare and learning center to its Statesboro Family YMCA and also lease space on the campus to Dr. Michelle Zeanah for an expansion of her Behavioral Pediatrics of Rural Georgia practice.

During its June 18 meeting, Statesboro City Council unanimously approved the YMCA’s request  for a zoning change for the 8.29-acre campus at 409 Clairborne Avenue from  R-15 single-family residential to the MX “mixed use” zoning category that  was created with last year’s enactment of the Statesboro Unified Development Code.

Of course, the YMCA is already not a residence, and as local attorney Marc Bruce, speaking on behalf of the YMCA and “indirectly” for Zeanah, pointed out, the complex was previously a school.

“We’re fortunate to have her (Zeanah) here in Statesboro,” Bruce said to the council. “She is a pediatrician who specializes in childhood behavioral issues, in particular autism, and the Y felt that she’d be a good fit for their premises there, and she has somewhat outgrown her facility … on Savannah Avenue. So she’ll continue to maintain that, but expand over to the north end of the YMCA property, which has been vacant for quite some time, I guess since it was a school.”

Zeanah, who also attended the meeting, has nothing to do with the YMCA’s  own plans to open a childcare center at the site, as she clarified when the reporter asked.

But for the portion of the complex that will become medical office space, she will “spiff it up and  expand her practice there, and in order  to do that, we  need the MX designation,” Bruce said.

The campus – bordered north and south by East Jones Avenue and Brannen Street and west and east by Clairborne and Gentilly Road – was Sallie Zetterower Elementary School until shortly before the current “Sallie Z.”  on Cawana Road opened in January 2011.

The Bulloch County Board of Education sold the old campus to YMCA-supporting investors for $1 million in 2016, and after renovations transformed the school gym into a family fitness center, Statesboro Family YMCA opened there in October 2017. A smaller building in poor condition had been torn down to make way for parking, and YMCA programs also moved into part of one of the classroom wings. But the YMCA has never used more than a portion of the available interior space.

As City Planning and Development Director Kathy Field reported, the city Planning Commission had earlier voted 5-0 to recommend approval of the zoning change. This recommendation carried only routine conditions from the development staff, such as that renovations cannot proceed without staff approval for building permits.


Kindergarten wing

Councilmember Shari Barr asked if any new construction will be done.

“There is an existing wing that was last occupied by kindergartners, just based on what’s posted on the walls that we’ve removed,” Zeanah said. “So what has been vacant for … years will come back into use.”

Zeanah and her Behavioral Pediatrics firm, she said, will part of the building and make repairs and any interior changes necessary for its use as a clinic.

“Then we will be able to add three additional physicians or physician assistants, more case management, more counseling services, hopefully to reduce some of the enormous wait list for the services that we offer,” Zeanah said.

But she is also keeping her current location, three minutes away at the end of Savannah Avenue, Zeanah told the Statesboro Herald. By moving the practice’s administrative offices, some medical professionals’ offices and counseling services to the YMCA campus, “we’ll then be able to expand our autism therapy clinic at the Savannah Avenue clinic, because right now I can’t add any additional employees because there’s no space,” she said.

Zeanah and her staff currently see children from 80 Georgia counties.


YMCA childcare

Although “a future daycare” was identified in the city’s summary as another purpose of the change to mixed-use zoning, this was not described during the council meeting.

Phoned Friday, Statesboro Family YMCA Branch Director Hannah Beggs confirmed that the planned daycare center would be the YMCA’s own and indicated that the YMCA’s preferred term is Child Development Learning Center, or CDLC. She had Christopher Sweat, marketing director for the YMCA of Coastal Georgia, call the newspaper.

At this point the Statesboro Y has only a Child Watch program where adult members can leave their children while working out at the fitness center.

“But we have child care learning centers throughout our region, quite a few,” Sweat said. “So we’re looking to add one to our Statesboro branch.”

He said he would have to consult other staffers for answers to questions such as the planned capacity of center and the timeline for its development. This information, when it becomes available, will be added to an update of this story.


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