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Published: Saturday, 1/29/2011

North YMCA plans to close, go downtown

Long known for helping people get fit, the Y is joining the movement to get downtown Toledo back in shape.

The YMCA & JCC of Greater Toledo has a plan to move out of its Summit Street location in North Toledo and into a new facility in the heart of downtown alongside the vacant Fiberglas Tower, Todd Tibbits, president and chief executive officer announced Friday.

The deal would mean a new workout area downtown and also moving its corporate offices, but it is all contingent upon securing a new tenant for the Summit YMCA at 306 Bush St. -- most likely a social services agency that could serve that neighborhood, Mr. Tibbits said.

A market study showed a Y facility next to the vacant skyscraper at Jefferson Avenue and St. Clair Street would do better than the current facility about a mile to the north, he said.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said the Eyde Co. of Lansing, which owns the Fiberglas Tower, now called the Tower on the Maumee, would tear down the existing parking garage next to the vacant building and construct a new parking structure with space for the Y, as well as office space for the Lucas County Improvement Corp., the county's economic development agency.

"We do not want to abandon North Toledo," Mr. Gerken said. "It is only a mile away, but people will perceive that as an abandonment."

He said the Eyde Co. is awaiting approval of a $3 million federal grant to help pay for the demolition.

The YMCA would sell its current location on Bush to the Eyde Co. and then lease space in the new downtown location created by Eyde.

"If the grant is not approved, the Eydes would do a $6 million total renovation," Mr. Gerken said. "I think if you renovate that parking garage through remodeling or completely rebuilding -- it is a significant structure on a major corner -- that would then increase the probability of getting tenants into the tower if that moves forward."

The Eyde Co. has a $44 million plan to renovate the vacant building into a mix of apartments, a hotel, and a restaurant.

Nick Eyde, whose family owns the firm, said an adjacent Y facility would make the building and other downtown housing more attractive.

"The downtown community is going to love having a place to work out, and we want to work to make that happen," Mr. Eyde said. "We feel in the core area of the downtown, with the workout area and the outreach services the Y offers, this would be a great fit."

The company is still considering razing and rebuilding the parking structure or completely renovating it, he said.

"It's an important redevelopment goal of the Eyde Co. and the first step toward regenerating the tower," Mr. Eyde said.

On June 29, 2010, Toledo City Council voted to allow the Eyde Co. to apply for a $10 million Section 108 Department of Housing and Urban Development loan as part of the financing for the tower renovation.

The company last year was denied $2 million over seven years for a federal Brownfield Economic Development Initiative grant that was to be used to pay the interest for the first seven years on that project's Section 108 loan. Mr. Eyde said the company is still pursuing the 108 loan.

The new downtown YMCA facility would have about 5,000 square feet for the workout area and another 5,000 square feet for the YMCA's corporate offices. That would be smaller than the facility in North Toledo, which also has an indoor track and a gymnasium. The downtown site would not have a gymnasium.

Mr. Tibbits said there would also not be a swimming pool downtown unless a donor steps forward to pay for one. YMCA spokesman Rob Thomas said he could not give an estimate on the cost for a pool or say whether space would be reserved for one in the future.

The Economic Opportunity Planning Association is considering moving from its headquarters on Hamilton Street into the Summit YMCA building, which was formerly part of Riverside Hospital.

Sylvester Gould, EOPA board of directors vice president, said the agency might be able to consolidate some of it operations into that building, which he said is of "much better quality" than its current location.

"It looks like it would be a fit but there could be a long way to go," Mr. Gould said.

Jesse Marroquin, United North board president, said he was pleased both sides and the county seem committed to finding a tenant such as EOPA for the building if the YMCA leaves.

"The intention is to continue the day care and to hopefully allow the community to continue using the building," Mr. Marroquin said. "Our main concern is the community so we are hoping that this works out and they will be able to fill that space because we don't want a vacant building."

The South Toledo Y was shuttered in December, 2009, despite protests from neighbors and members. The building that sits off the Anthony Wayne Trail is being razed.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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