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Bingo! YWCA finds new home

The YWCA intends to buy the Big Brothers and Sisters Bingo Hall building on North Monroe Street and move its social-service programs there within about two years.

YWCA Executive Director Monica Walters said the bingo hall is ideally located near the Spokane County Courthouse and near the downtown core.

Walters declined to disclose how much the YWCA will pay for the bingo hall. The group’s board agreed to sell its current building to SRM Development for $4 million.

The bingo hall is assessed at $1.6 million, a number virtually unchanged in six years. Its commercial, or appraised, value is likely much more, coming at a time when downtown Spokane property prices are climbing and developers are busy building and remodeling offices, condominiums and retail stores.

The move will require an extensive remodeling job – an expense that along with the purchase price and desire for a healthy operating reserve will require a capital campaign with a goal in excess of $4 million, Walters said.

When it’s finished, Walters said she envisions a better-staffed YWCA with a larger budget offering more programs for women and children in Spokane.

“We feel confident that this is right thing for us to do,” she said.

Unresolved is how the move will affect a previously announced collaboration between the YWCA and the unrelated but closely aligned YMCA of the Inland Northwest. Those organizations said about a year ago that they hoped to relocate together somewhere near downtown Spokane.

Walters said the bingo hall property is larger than three acres and that the YMCA is welcome to design and build on the site.

The YMCA hopes to sell to a private developer its Riverfront Park gym and office building, which overlooks the Spokane Falls. The chance to buy a building on such a serene spot is expected to fetch top dollar — in excess of $5 million — and help the YMCA finance a new downtown-area athletic facility.

Scot Auble, a YMCA board member who leads its downtown advisory board, said the YWCA’s offer to allow the athletic association to build on the site is a generous gesture.

“We consider this a big favor,” Auble said. “It’s an opportunity for us to talk further about co-locating … which allows us to do far more community good with fewer resources.”

Though the nonprofit agencies have similarities, the YWCA has closed its pool and moved away from offering athletic programs. It has instead refined its mission to serving women and children attempting to escape abuse and other domestic problems. Because of that, it requires less space, and the bingo hall is smaller than the current YWCA location.

Walters said the agency’s move will allow it to build on programs designed to offer economic and household stability, such as job training, parenting classes and the education of homeless children.

That includes added child care capacity, better work readiness services and a new technology center — a step beyond the crisis intervention that the YWCA now offers.

The YWCA served 7,000 women and children last year.

Tags: YWCA