Monday, April 6, 2009

Gresham Business Leaders Say No To Proposed YMCA

“A YMCA won't help Rockwood, community members testified at a Gresham Redevelopment Commission meeting Thursday. About 12 people spoke before the commission; every one urged the city not to build a YMCA on the proposed "cultural marketplace" site. Last year, the city chose Williams & Dame -- the developers for the Pearl District and South Waterfront -- to plan that site. The developers spent a year looking for something that would bring people in from outside Rockwood, something to spur other development. A YMCA is their best plan, they said. Many speakers at Thursday's meeting have worked at local health clubs such as Cascade Athletic for decades and said a YMCA could cripple their businesses. The nonprofit gets tax abatements. ‘We help build up a tax base, not take it away,’ said Jeff Card, whose family owns nearby Olympic Gym. ‘A YMCA is going to be at the expense of the for-profits.’ Commissioner Mike Bennett said the city should explore all of its options before committing to the YMCA. ‘The catalyst needs to be the right one,’ he said. ‘If it's not, it will haunt this city for years. I'd rather the lot sit empty than us do the wrong thing.’ At the end of the meeting, after everyone had voiced opposition to the nonprofit building a site in Rockwood, YMCA Executive Vice President Dean Wallace spoke. ’The Y doesn't want to be where it isn't needed,’ Wallace said. ‘I have too much respect (for the local health club owners) to be a part of the problem. We don't want to drive them out of business.’ The YMCA is not off the table. The redevelopment commissioners will hold weekly meetings in May to plan further, they said at the meeting. Two weeks ago, the city extended its exclusive negotiating track with Williams & Dame for 90 days.”

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