YMCA seeks funds to remain downtown

Local YMCAs, including the downtown and Prevention Park locations, offer financial assistance for those affected by the partial government shutdown.(File photo)

Can it stay there when it’s short on its dough? The downtown Frankfort YMCA may soon find out.

While the YMCA still has some 50 years remaining on its 99-year lease from the state, the aging downtown facility has grown increasingly isolated as its Convention Center and Capital Plaza Tower neighbors are being razed to the ground.

The YMCA had been in talks with the Lexington-based developer-contractor team now rebuilding the Capital Plaza area to be part of its redevelopment proposal to the state, The State Journal reported in October.

The YMCA has since declined CRM/D.W. Wilburn’s offer, which YMCA of Central Kentucky CEO David Martorano said was not economical for the non-profit organization. Talks with city and county leaders, however, continue.

City Manager Cindy Steinhauser, who will meet with representatives of the YMCA on Wednesday, said the YMCA first approached the city and county about the CRM/D.W. Wilburn proposal to see to what extent local government could subsidize the project. Steinhauser declined to say how much money the YMCA was seeking annually.

“I do think there’s great value in having the downtown Y as part of downtown revitalization,” said Steinhauser, noting that no decisions had been made that would necessitate a conversation with city commissioners.

The downtown YMCA occupies 4.6 acres directly across from another 8 acres that the Finance and Administration Cabinet has promised to return to the city’s tax rolls. Freeing up the YMCA’s land for downtown redevelopment would be a “great option,” said Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells, who talked of the possibility of extending Washington Street through the property.

“Building a new downtown Y is the option that they’re looking at and are hopeful for,” said Wells, also noting that “lots of money needs to be raised.”

Martorano agreed that his organization’s ultimate goal is to have a new presence in downtown Frankfort and to return the state land for future redevelopment.

“Certainly it’s going to take the entire community rallying around the development process for the YMCA,” Martorano said.

The YMCA of Central Kentucky continues to operate the Frankfort YMCA under a management agreement. A deal to permanently merge the two organizations — in the works since late 2016 — is on hold until after the Frankfort YMCA decides on its future in downtown Frankfort.

“We’re not going anywhere, but we want the local decisions to really be made before the integration — merger — takes place,” said Martorano.

“The YMCA can be a very good partner for the revitalization of downtown. We’re hopeful that will happen.”

Frankfort YMCA Board Chair John Bevington did not respond to a request for comment.

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