Bidding bye to the Y 

News Hits is disappointed by the recent closing of southwest Detroit’s YMCA. We are disappointed because it was one of only two Y’s remaining in the city. And we’re suspicious of the way this was handled because of a controversy involving this same Y two years ago.

In 2000, the community was up in arms when the Metropolitan Detroit YMCA proposed selling the 88,000-square-foot facility to the Detroit Rescue Mission, which intended to house and treat recovering drug addicts, alcoholics and nonviolent criminals there. Even though the mission would have continued to lease space for Y programs, citizens thought that the plan was inappropriate since the building sits near Clark Park and public schools. After heavy criticism, the plan was quashed.

Fast forward to late last month when some Y members say they received a notice informing them that the building would be closed Aug. 31. Metro Detroit Y says it gave 10 days notice; members say it was more like six.

Either way, News Hits wonders whether the short notice was intended to stave off the kind of protest seen two years ago.

Larry Kameya, Metro Detroit Y senior vice president of education and community initiatives, says that the closure is due to budget problems resulting from declining membership; about 500 people currently belong to the recreation facility. But one regular visitor tells News Hits that the place was bustling with activity.

Y members were not the only ones surprised by the closing. Clark Street Enterprises, a private developer that purchased the building in 2000 and became the Y’s landlord, learned that the Y was pulling out a couple weeks ago, says company spokesperson Robert Goodfellow.

“In the back of our minds we were hoping the Y would stay there for a while,” he says. “What we would like to do at this point is try to get someone to continue with the programs.” If they can’t, Goodfellow says that the company may convert the building into lofts.

The Metro Detroit Y is scheduled to break ground next year on a downtown facility at Broadway and Grand River. “The intent is, once that major project is done, to look at developing neighborhood branches in the city,” says Kameya.

“We have not given up developing something here,” he says about the southwest neighborhood. Till then, folks will have to hoof it to the other side of town.

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