Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Decision to give YMCA site to church difficult but necessary, officials say

For the YMCA and Jewish Community Center of Greater Toledo, the decision to close its South Toledo branch and give away the property was a tough one.

But it was financially necessary because of funding cuts, the cost of maintaining aging facilities, and a declining membership, Robert Alexander, YMCA president and chief executive officer, said Monday.

For CedarCreek Church, which has a tentative agreement to receive the property for free, the YMCA/JCC offer was manna from heaven, said the Rev. Lee Powell, senior pastor at CedarCreek.

We were looking for a building, and now we have a building that s been given to us, the senior pastor said yesterday at a news conference in Mayor Carty Finkbeiner s office in Toledo.

The pastor also discussed the possibility of paving small sections of Woodsdale Park for additional parking spaces for the church.

The YMCA/JCC said state funding cuts to the Early Learning Initiative program, which represents a shortfall of about $2 million for the YMCA/JCC, have forced it to shutter the branch at 1226 Woodsdale Park Drive, near the Anthony Wayne Trail.

The branch is scheduled to close Aug. 29. The property was most recently appraised at $445,400, according to land records.

CedarCreek plans to fill in the swimming pool and undertake a $1.5 million to $2 million renovation and expansion to create a satellite church with capacity for 500 worshippers. The new church could open by late 2010 or early 2011.

Despite his organization s cash crunch, Mr. Alexander said the idea to give the property to nondenominational Christian CedarCreek a decision approved by the YMCA/JCC s board of trustees was about more than money.

We just feel that based on our mission, this is the right thing to do, he said, noting how the YMCA/JCC is a nonprofit organization with faith-based roots.

He said the YMCA/JCC also wanted to avoid a scenario of the property sitting vacant.

If we put the building on the market, it could be years before it was sold, Mr. Alexander said.

Along with closing the South Toledo branch, the YMCA/JCC also will discontinue the early learning program, which will affect about 300 children at five other branches. Those branches are the Wayman Palmer, West Toledo, Summit Street, East, and Wolf Creek branches.

The South Toledo branch opened in 1954 and has undergone two major additions. Mr. Alexander said the number of members at the South Toledo branch has steadily declined in recent decades and is down to about 800.

The facility is now in need of upgrades, and runs a deficit of about $300,000 a year, he said. The branch generates most of its revenue from child care the type of services being cut by the state.

In recent years most of the YMCA s growth has not been in Toledo, but in its more affluent suburbs.

Residents there are better able to pay the increasing cost of Y memberships and to help support the $899,000 annually paid to the YMCA s directors and key employees, including the $265,441 a year paid to Mr. Alexander, according to the Y s federal tax filings for 2007.

The closure and other restructuring announced this week are expected to save the YMCA/JCC about $1 million a year.

CedarCreek officials met with Mayor Finkbeiner yesterday afternoon to discuss a final hurdle to the property deal parking.

Mr. Powell said CedarCreek is moving closer to a side agreement with the city that would involve paving over a portion of Woodsdale Park adjoining the property to create 60 to 80 parking spots for church-goers.

The church would pay for construction of the new parking spaces, although the city would maintain ownership of that piece of park land. The city also would allow church members to use existing parking space in Woodsdale Park during services.

CedarCreek also plans to build an additional 60 to 80 parking spaces on its own property there if the YMCA/JCC deal goes through.

The church agreed yesterday to submit a written proposal for the expanded parking area, which would be reviewed by the law department and others in city government.

Mayor Finkbeiner said that considering the economic pressures facing the YMCA/JCC, he is in favor of CedarCreek going into the South Toledo branch location.

I was very delighted to see a church that is as popular and growing as their church is put further ties in the community, the mayor said.

Pam Morris, a South Toledo resident who described herself as a daily user of Woodsdale Park, said she s OK with the church replacing the YMCA so long as the expanded parking lot doesn t destroy too much of the existing park and its trail. She said the park is often more comfortable, easygoing, and less congested than nearby Walbridge Park an ideal setting for walks with her 4-year-old German Shepherd, Lady.

There are not that many places you can go [in the city] without being overcrowded, she said, adding that she enjoys the serenity of a peaceful lunch and being able to put some distance between herself and loud music.

I have no problem with CedarCreek Church, but why tear up the green space? she asked.

Bob McDonald, 83, and his wife, Hazel McDonald, 60, said they would be willing to sell their house at 1213 Glenview Rd. for a fair price to help preserve more parkland.

Why pave over the park if you can take our property? agreed Mrs. McDonald s son, Frank Busch.

The McDonalds have lived on Glenview since 1988. It is a quiet street behind a ball diamond where the YMCA and the city park meet. Their current house, which they ve lived in the past seven years, is at a dead end which leads to a pedestrian entrance into Woodsdale Park.

Mrs. McDonald said it s sad the YMCA is leaving the neighborhood, but added that economic realities are hitting everyone.

The YMCA/JCC has invited current South Toledo branch members to the Morse Center, a fitness center it operates on the University of Toledo s Health Science Campus. The Morse Center does not have a swimming pool, but its members may access the pool inside the nearby Hilton Toledo.

The University, the YMCA/JCC, and the Margaret Hunt Senior Center are in the preplanning phases of constructing a healthy lifestyle center on the health science campus, said Matt Schroe der, vice president for real estate and business development for the University of Toledo Foundation. There is no timeline yet for the project.

City Councilman D. Michael Collins, who represents the area near the South Toledo branch and supports the YMCA/JCC s deal with CedarCreek, said YMCA/JCC representatives approached him several months ago to inquire about whether the city could provide $60,000 for sewer upgrades to the property.

He told the representatives that unless they committed to keeping the branch open, he couldn t commit to helping them.

Based upon the lack of commitment by the Y to remain there, I didn t think it was appropriate to seek out city money for it, Mr. Collins said.

Mr. Alexander confirmed that the YMCA/JCC spoke with Mr. Collins about sewer upgrades, but said the organization made no formal request for city funds. The discussions had no bearing on the more recent decision to close the South Toledo branch, he said.

Staff Writer Tom Henry contributed to this story.

Contact JC Reindl at:jreindl@theblade.comor 419-724-6065.

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