August 9, 2005 in City

Downtown Ys want to sell

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Shared campus

“The YMCA and YWCA would combine the proceeds from their riverfront property sales and launch a fund-raising campaign with a total goal of $25 million, using the money to build a shared campus plus the YMCA’s planned north Spokane branch.

The downtown Spokane YMCA and YWCA have launched an ambitious plan to sell their choice riverfront properties and use the proceeds to build a shared campus somewhere in the downtown area within the next three years.

YWCA Executive Director Monica Walters said a Spokane firm, SRM Development LLC, has offered $4 million for the YWCA property on the southeast corner of Broadway and Lincoln. The YMCA, across the Spokane River in Riverfront Park, just “put out the word” on Friday that it is interested in fielding offers for its 40-year-old building near the IMAX Theater, said Rig Riggins, president and chief executive officer.

“This is about trying to move an organization forward into the future to meet the growing needs of the community,” Walters said. “We would really like to have the support of the whole community.”

Developer John Stone, a partner in SRM Development, didn’t return a phone call Monday seeking comment.

The two nonprofit organizations would like to buy five to eight acres for their new campus, Riggins said. The goal would be to eliminate duplication of services and construct buildings that would meet the needs of this region in the future, he said.

For example, the YWCA, which focuses on assisting women and children suffering from domestic violence or neglect, no longer would have a swimming pool in its new location. But swimming programs would be available next door at the YMCA, a full-service fitness facility with a swimming pool.

The nonprofit organizations would combine the proceeds from their property sales – which should be substantial as both overlook the Spokane River – and then launch a fund-raising campaign with a total goal of $25 million. That money would be used to build the new campus plus the YMCA’s planned north Spokane branch. The nonprofit bought 16 acres in January along the Newport Highway at Nevada Street.

The YMCA’s downtown Spokane property is likely to be extremely appealing to developers, considering its 180 feet of river frontage and location in the middle of Riverfront Park. However, if the building were to be torn down, any new structure built there would be subject to shoreline setbacks, which would gobble up about 50 feet of the property depth, said city planner Steve Haynes. Using the existing structure would allow a developer to make use of the entire piece of property, he said.

“The value of that property, it must be through the roof,” Haynes said.

One YWCA member expressed dismay at the future loss of the YWCA’s swimming pool, calling it a “jewel” and saying it’s a shame to lose the site to “more half-million-dollar condos.” Mary Cayer, a 20-year member, said she belongs to the YWCA for the athletic programs and wonders why she should continue her membership in the future.

“How can you help women with their emotional and mental problems and forget about the physical?” Cayer said. “When women feel good physically, they feel good emotionally and mentally.”

But Walters said those services still will be available to members at the new campus, inside a new YMCA. She said the pool and fitness equipment currently drains $50,000 annually from the YWCA’s budget.

“To continue to do that at the expense of continuing to provide for needs in other areas just does not make good sense for us,” Walters said. Without this new plan, the pool likely would have been closed within the next few years anyway, she said.

However, members must approve the YWCA’s property sale before the organization can move forward. The YWCA recently sent members a card asking them to attend an Aug. 16 meeting to vote on the pending property transaction. For the vote to be valid, 25 voting members must be present, and for the sale to move forward, two-thirds of those must approve, Walters said. The YWCA’s board voted unanimously on July 26 to move forward with the sale, she said.

Both Walters and Riggins emphasized that the sales of their properties would be contingent on them finding land for their new campus, purchasing it, and building their new buildings so members would not experience any interruption in services.

The YWCA has between 1,500 and 2,000 members and serves about 20,000 women and children every year with programs including: domestic violence assistance, child and youth services, economic advancement and promotion of racial justice.

The YMCA has 3,000 members and serves about 30,000 people every year with its fitness facilities, drop-in child-care center, and meeting rooms.


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