The debate over the future of the Riverfront Park YMCA has been long and passionate. Demolition of the former downtown Y, which borders Spokane Falls, began in February 2011. The City Council voted 4-3 in March 2010 to accept Spokane County’s offer to pay for the land and transform it into a natural area. After cost overruns stemming from more asbestos than expected being found at the site, the demolition is now complete and trees have been planted at the site.
The debate began in 2005 when YMCA and YWCA officials put their downtown buildings up for sale. In 2006, developer Mark Pinch offered $5.3 million for the YMCA in hopes of building a condo tower.
Under a 1988 deal with the city, the Y was required to offer the building to the Park Board for the same price. The board said building condos on the site was unacceptable and voted to buy the Y and put $1 million down.
In 2008, the Park Board won support from Spokane County’s park board to use Conservation Futures property taxes to finish the purchase, but county commissioners said they wouldn’t sign off unless the City Council agreed.
Supporters of removing the YMCA argued that it’s an eyesore sitting on the shore of the region’s most important natural landmark. They said that the land presents a chance to showcase the Conservation Futures in a popular location.
Opponents argued that Conservation Futures taxes should be spent on undeveloped land and that the cost of the Y property, which is less than an acre, could buy more than 1,000 acres elsewhere.