What will happen to the downtown Minneapolis and Uptown YWCA when they close on November 1? Some are pushing for a public buyer

Some YWCA Minneapolis members are pushing for public buyers to keep downtown and Uptown fitness facilities open after the YWCA closes on November 1.

The organization announced in August that it would close its fitness centers and pools, located in popular locations near Nicollet Mall and Hennepin Avenue, because they were no longer financially viable. primary and inconsistent with the YWCA’s shift away from health and fitness.

The buildings were put up for sale this month, and YWCA officials said they hope to reach tentative purchase agreements for both by the end of the year.

“It could be used for public health care,” said Angela Haeg of Minneapolis, a longtime YWCA member and one of those calling on local elected leaders to buy the buildings. more copper”. “A lot of people don’t have access to fitness centers or swimming pools.”

Executive Director Shelley Carthen Watson, who has led YWCA Minneapolis since 2021, said all proposals are being considered. A number of potential buyers from businesses, investors to other nonprofit organizations have toured the buildings, she said. She declined to say how many offers they have received.

“I think everything is on the table,” she said. “We don’t favor a certain type of buyer.”

Other cities have increased their purchases of fitness centers. In the West metro area, Minnetonka bought the Marsh Health Care Center this year for nearly $4.3 million after the YMCA of the North closed it as part of a broader series of center closures. Y fitness center during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the north metro area, Lino Lakes last year reopened the city’s closed YMCA.

Minneapolis cannot afford to buy the YWCA fitness centers, said Zach Schultz, a spokesman for Council Member Lisa Goodman, whose district includes Uptown and downtown.

Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner Elizabeth Shaffer, whose district also includes downtown and Uptown, said that while facilities are important community assets, especially for seniors, purchasing and Maintaining them would only be feasible for the Park Board if it partnered with another entity to share the costs. .

“I don’t think this is something the Park Board can take on on its own,” said Shaffer, who canceled his YWCA Uptown membership after the closure announcement. “We all like the idea of ​​having more public places… but it all depends on funding.”

Park Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers said the board has had limited conversations about YWCA assets. Hennepin County spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan said she was not aware of any formal discussions about purchasing the buildings.

No list price has been disclosed for the buildings, and their property values ​​are not public information because the YWCA is tax-exempt. But the YWCA will likely make millions of dollars from sales.

Shift focus

The YWCA’s downtown fitness center, a 120,000-square-foot facility that houses the administrative offices, opened in 1976 and replaced a 1929 building. The 80,000-square-foot Uptown YWCA opens in 1987.

“It was really hard to see it happen,” Carthen Watson said. “Our facilities are more than just buildings, even more than gyms. They are truly places that have deep personal meaning for many people.”

The listing by Colliers, a commercial real estate firm, suggests that downtown properties are well-located for headquarters or redevelopment, while Uptown properties could be redeveloped. .

When fitness centers close in two weeks, the YWCA will close the Uptown building, drain the pool and sell most of the fitness equipment. The downtown building will remain open with its child care center until it is sold.

Carthen Watson said the YWCA Midtown fitness center, the largest and newest facility, will become a community center with new programs, such as senior resources, health clinics and possibly is free tax help.

YWCA will also focus on its other programs, including five child care centers, six youth programs and five racial equity programs.

“One of the things we always do is pivot to meet the needs of the community at the time, so that’s what we’re doing,” she said.

Carthen Watson said the crime problem in Uptown and downtown was not the reason for the closure. Instead, she said, the pandemic has challenged the fitness industry, causing YWCAs across the country to move away from the “swim and gym model.”

According to the YWCA, YWCA Minneapolis fitness programs generate a quarter of YWCA’s revenue but account for 35% of its expenses. Membership has dropped from 7,200 in 2019 to about 3,000, a drop of nearly 60%.

Last year, YWCA Minneapolis, which has an annual budget of $18 million, recorded a $2 million deficit, its largest in recent years, according to tax forms. The nonprofit listed a total of $22.7 million in land and home assets on its 2022 federal taxes.

Membership declines, staffing shortages and rising costs have all worsened during the pandemic. The YWCA is laying off 52 employees with the closure, representing about 17% of its workforce, although that number is less than the 85 layoffs initially announced.

Competing for the swimming program

The closure left more than 300 adult and youth swimmers on the YWCA’s Otters and Masters swim teams scrambling to find new swim clubs. A group of Otters transfer to Southern High School; Haeg, a masters swimmer, and part of her team moved to the Minneapolis Community Education System’s Southwest High School pool.

Haeg currently uses his employer’s gym. The gyms near her home lack the diversity that the YWCA fosters, she said. She hopes the gym in Uptown is accessible, especially to low-income residents of color.

“It was a real shock because I didn’t think there was a crisis going on,” said Haeg, who taught and coached at the YWCA years ago. “It’s just a loss for the community and most of the swimmers are women. If their mission is to empower women then it’s a huge loss in that mission statement.”

Noel Hemphill of Minneapolis lost his part-time job as a swimming coach before attending Southwestern High School. To her, the YWCA is more than just a side gig; Her parents met at the downtown pool and she learned to swim as a child at the Uptown pool.

“I kind of grew up there. For the community, it’s really a loss,” she said, adding that she hopes the Parks Board can buy YWCA Uptown like it did with the Sports Center. Phillips water sports a few years ago. “This was a poor and short-sighted choice.”

Denise Fahl of Minneapolis, a longtime YWCA member, contacted local officials hoping the YWCA would seriously consider selling to public owners.

“They can continue [their mission] by not only selling to the highest bidder but also thinking about the community,” Fahl said. “We have a lot of parks, but we don’t have a lot of community centers.”

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