Friday, May 2, 2008

Y Not Downtown?

It's really too bad the original plan at the "Big N Plaza" couldn't come together. But we need to be realistic and work with what we have. Here's the latest on the YMCA project from today's Times Union:

YMCA changes plan for facility
Short of cash for new building, group looks at complex in Schenectady

By Lauren Stanforth
Staff writer
First published: Friday, May 2, 2008
SCHENECTADY -- The YMCA has abandoned its long-standing plans to construct a new building in the city and is instead focusing on a possible relocation to the Center City complex on State Street.

The organization has been unable to raise the money it needs to build from scratch, said David Brown, CEO of the Capital District YMCA. A new building is projected to cost at least $10 million, and the YMCA has raised about $4 million.

The YMCA originally announced plans in 2004 to close its location at 13 State St. and build a new exercise and recreational facility at the former Big N plaza on Nott Street. But that plan had to be scrapped last fall after the Golub Corp. wanted the land for its new Price Chopper headquarters. Since then, the YMCA had been quiet about what it would do next.

"I'm confident once we get a site and a concept, the fundraising will pick up," Brown said Thursday.

Brown said the YMCA is still looking at multiple sites but is particularly interested in Center City's spacious first floor for a possible renovation. Developer Galesi Group recently took over the building at 415-419 State St. from the city, the city's Industrial Development Agency and developer Robert Lupe and is planning a renovation of the 170,000-square-foot property. The building, which was built in 1979 as an ice rink surrounded on upper floors by offices, is used by an indoor soccer league.

The site is on a bus line and has ample parking in the back, Brown said. However, he said he didn't know what amenities could fit in the space yet, including a pool. The YMCA's services for homeless men would be located somewhere else under the agency's current proposal.
David Buicko, chief operating officer for The Galesi Group, said they're discussing the possibility with the YMCA, but that those talks are in their infancy. "We're happy they're considering us," Buicko said.

James Commarto, a contributor to the YMCA project and former property owner downtown, said he'll support the Center City project if it's the only option but said he still wants to see a new building constructed. Commarto hopes that publicity about the lack of funds might jump-start contributions.

Frank Maurizio, a member of the Schenectady YMCA board of managers, said he has mixed feelings about the change. "I was looking forward to building in another area, only because I thought a new YMCA would stabilize another neighborhood," he said. "But it's difficult to argue against another major player being located downtown."

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