Greater Cleveland YMCA refuses to budge
WEST SIDE YMCA TO CLOSE AUGUST 31ST

by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, September 2004) With the August 31 st closing of the West Side YMCA fast approaching, Mayor Jane L. Campbell met twice with Greater Cleveland YMCA Board Chairman James M. Petras and President/CEO Glenn Haley during the last week of August to try to convince them to extend the deadline for closing the West Side YMCA until December 31 st.

Mayor Campbell’s hope was that an extension of the closure date would give community organizations and groups on the Near West Side time to work out a solution to keep the facility open and YMCA programs running at the facility. As of Friday,August 27 th, the efforts of the mayor have not proven successful, said Davie Fitz of the Mayor’s Press Office. The Greater Cleveland YMCA still intends to close the West Side YMCA on August 31 st, said Fitz.

Fitz says Mayor Campbell remains firm about demanding the Greater Cleveland YMCA return $210,000 of an outstanding mortgage if it moves the Y-Haven program out of the West Side YMCA before 2007. When city money was given to the YMCA to rehab the facility, terms called for Y-Haven to remain at the West Side YMCA until that time period in order for the repayment to be forgiven.

Fitz also noted that the West Side YMCA is zoned as a health club. Current zoning would only allow use of the facility as a health club or as single-family housing. The zoning will “make it hard for a developer to do anything profitable”, says Fitz.

Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman says, “there is no way we are going to do anything to change the zoning.” Cimperman wondered if anyone has even bid on the West Side YMCA building. In July, Greater Cleveland YMCA sent out Request for Proposals to purchase the property. Those proposals were due August 6 th. The Greater Cleveland YMCA has refused to share information with the city as to whether or not they have received any bids on the property.

Fitz believes the appraised value of the West Side YMCA building is $1.2 million. However, he says, “the YMCA’s behavior is already diminishing the value of the property.”

Cimperman says the Greater Cleveland YMCA’s actions will likely hurt their fundraising efforts. He says he plans to talk to foundations and United Way about the appropriateness of giving funds to an organization that is disinvesting in the inner city.

In a July 28 th letter to Petras and Haley, Mayor Campbell asked that the Greater Cleveland YMCA extend to the West Side YMCA the same deal it offered to the Glenville YMCA and Miles YMCA. Those deals called for the donation/acquisition of the YMCA facilities by the development corporations in those neighborhoods and then the lease back of the facilities to the YMCA so the YMCA could continue to provide services. The Greater Cleveland YMCA has not offered the same deal to Ohio City Near West Development Corporation and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization despite the willingness of those organizations to work with the Greater Cleveland YMCA toward such an agreement. Instead the Greater Cleveland YMCA has decided to sell the West Side YMCA.

At an August 11 th press conference on the steps of Cleveland City Hall , Mayor Campbell called the Greater Cleveland YMCA’s response to her letter inadequate. She again asked that the Greater Cleveland YMCA make the same offer to the West Side YMCA that they had given to the Glenville YMCA and the Miles YMCA.

In their response to the mayor’s letter the Greater Cleveland YMCA cited huge deficits over the last few years and a projected $1.2 million dollar deficit this year as reasons the West Side YMCA must be closed. Campbell , noting that the huge deficits didn’t come from the West Side YMCA, asked the Greater Cleveland YMCA to provide her with a branch-by-branch financial summary so it could be determined where the debt was occurring. Campbell again asked the Greater Cleveland YMCA to extend the deadline for closing the West Side YMCA to December 31 st. Referring to numerous fundraising efforts by those trying to save the West Side YMCA, Campbell said funds raised at the YMCA branches should stay and be spent at those branches. Campbell also noted that the YMCA’s plan to close the West Side YMCA provided no long-term assurances that it would continue to provide a residence for 60 formerly homeless people now served by the Y-Haven program housed at the West Side YMCA.

Chris Warren, Co-Chair of the Save Our Y Campaign says he is deeply disappointed that the “Greater Cleveland YMCA chose to liquidate a 100-year community institution in order to bail out a countywide program budget.”

Warren said the Save Our Y Campaign will continue to press the Greater Cleveland YMCA to meet with Ohio City Near West Development Corporation and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. While the group would be open to taking over the facility for some kind of fitness program, the Save Our Y Campaign’s goal remains to bring back the YMCA and their programs, especially those for children, said Warren .

The Save Our Y Campaign will monitor any movement of the Y-Haven program to assure the number of beds available in the program does not diminish. The Save Our Y Campaign will also help monitor the situations in the Glenville and Miles neighborhoods to assure those neighborhoods are treated fairly by the Greater Cleveland YMCA. “We are not going away. This is a long haul proposition,” said Warren .

Warren said he heard that the Greater Cleveland YMCA sent out about 30 requests for proposals to bid on the West Side YMCA building, yet didn’t sent one to either Ohio City Near West Development Corporation or to Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization. Warren believes the Greater Cleveland YMCA didn’t offer the two community organizations a chance to bid because they didn’t want to talk about offering discounts on the price of the property.

 

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