Last Tuesday (April 18), the Gadsden City Council and YMCA of the Coosa Valley Board of Directors approved the sale of the YMCA property at 100 Walnut Street to the city, a deal that will allow the YMCA to satisfy its financial obligations while remaining an active presence in the community.
The deal was brokered by Mayor Craig Ford as a way to provide the organization a path to continuing operations while keeping an important piece of property in play for the city’s future development.
“When we learned that the YMCA decided to shut down its facility and put it on the market, I thought we should do what we could to purchase that property,” said Ford. “This deal allows the YMCA to meet its financial obligations and gives it the opportunity to continue to offer services in the community while creating new opportunities for the former YMCA building.”
The agreed-upon purchase price of $950,000 includes all non-leased furnishings, which essentially means all of the furniture and exercise equipment except cardio machines. The funds used to purchase the property came from recent sales of unused city properties, a move that kept the purchase within budget.
The city intends to use the building space for one of many future needs. Ford would like to see a childcare facility specifically for city employees, an initiative that would be the first of its kind in Alabama. Other options are to utilize the space for a city gym, a new police building or some combination of uses.
“As we address employee recruitment and retention challenges, one of the biggest impediments to workforce participation is access to childcare,” said Ford. “Sometimes it’s about affordability, but other times it’s simply about access to childcare options, period. So, if we’re looking to bring in young men and women to our police, fire, and city ranks to replace retirees, it would be nice to alleviate that looming question of, ‘Who is going to watch my kids when I am at work?’
“At the same time, we have Orchestra Partners and Goodwyn Mills Cawood working on a riverfront development and comprehensive plan, and they are telling us that this is a vital piece of property for Gadsden’s future. So, to me, it makes sense for the city to be the one to provide the financial resources to the organization in exchange for their unused building.”
At some point in the future, at least a portion of the facility and a portion of the city’s current police building may be impacted by the future relocation of U.S. Highway 411. However, that timeline and the exact route are still being determined.
According to YMCA of the Coosa Valley president and CEO Leroy Falcon, membership declined and has not returned since the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that the YMCA lacks the capital to make needed repairs, maintenance and improvements on an aging facility. The Coosa Valley YMCA opened in 1963 and was renovated in 2000.
“This was a very difficult decision for the Board of Directors and management team,” said LeRoy Falcon of. “But Gadsden’s growth has shifted, and this Y is reaching fewer individuals and families. This is a decision based on both financial and operations perspectives.”
Messenger Publisher/Editor Chris McCarthy contributed to this article.