Frankfort might have a plan for the future of its downtown, but how the YMCA sees itself in that future remains uncertain.
The answer to a State Journal reader’s question of what will happen to the YMCA and whether it will keep a presence downtown remains to be seen, as the Christian-based health organization declined an interview on the matter until after its merger with the Lexington-based YMCA of Central Kentucky officially goes through. YMCA of Central Kentucky Vice President Jerry Grasso said he would be willing to talk to The State Journal in early to mid-January to set up an interview.
For now, officials who have spoken with the YMCA said they remain hopeful about keeping it downtown.
Local economic development leader Terri Bradshaw — one of the members of a local committee tasked with carrying out the Capital Plaza redevelopment process — said she could not estimate the likelihood of the YMCA staying downtown but that it is certainly not out of the question.
“Absolutely, I do feel like it remains a possibility,” Bradshaw said. “We are continuously looking at ways that we can be certain that we keep the YMCA downtown.”
The Frankfort YMCA currently sits on Broadway Street near the intersection with Wilkinson Boulevard and still has about 50 years remaining on its 99-year lease from the state.
Though Bradshaw said she could not speak directly on behalf of the Y, she said, based on her conversations with the organization, that she believes it is “committed to doing everything they can to remain downtown.”
The outcome, Bradshaw said, will depend on a host of factors, including a financing model that makes sense for the YMCA.
If Frankfort’s new downtown master plan went exactly as designed, a new YMCA would sit on the site currently used by the Franklin County Farmers Market as part of a new riverfront development that includes a new hotel, conference facility and parking garage.
Those who designed the plan, however, have noted that riverfront development idea is malleable. A non-compete agreement with Capital Plaza Hotel that prohibits any competition on state-owned land within a mile through at least 2022 would also prevent a new hotel from going on that farmers market site, which is owned by the state.
Other than the site outlined in the downtown master plan, the only available downtown site that would be “ideal” is somewhere on the 6.4 acres of former Capital Plaza land — known as Parcel B — intended for redevelopment by a private developer, Bradshaw said.
Frankfort Tourism Director Robin Antenucci, who sits on the Frankfort YMCA board of directors, said she knows the YMCA hopes to remain downtown but also that she was unaware of any interest in being part of a development on the farmers market site.
“That’s a concept, and that may be viable, but in terms of that being pushed forward in any way, I’m unaware of it,” Antenucci said.
Last October, the YMCA was approached about possibly locating a facility on the grounds of the new state office building currently under construction on Mero Street. Those plans, Antenucci said, fell through because of a markedly high cost and the fact that the merger with YMCA of Central Kentucky was still in the works.
“We did look at that and the price tag, and I don’t remember the numbers, but I remember it being a number bigger than this Y had ever raised in terms of fundraising (for a project),” Antenucci said.
Because tax-exempt bonds were sold last year to finance the state office building and a parking structure, they could not be modified to include the YMCA at this point because of bonding regulations, Finance and Administration Cabinet spokeswoman Pamela Troutner told The State Journal in an email.
Other than the desire to stay downtown in the long term, Antenucci said she’s not aware of immediate plans for the YMCA to move out of its current building.