June 22, 2024

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a Healthy Lifestyle for a Better Future

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Some YWCA Minneapolis members are pushing for a public buyer to keep open the downtown and Uptown fitness facilities after the YWCA closes them Nov. 1.

The organization announced in August it was shutting down the fitness centers and pools, located in high-profile spots off Nicollet Mall and Hennepin Avenue, because they were no longer financially viable and didn’t fit into the YWCA’s shift away from health and fitness.

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

“It could be used for more community wellness,” said Angela Haeg of Minneapolis, a longtime YWCA member and one of several people who are urging local elected leaders to buy the buildings. “A lot of people don’t have access to fitness centers or a pool.”

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

“I think everything is on the table,” she said. “We’re not prioritizing a certain type of buyer at all.”

Other cities have stepped up to buy fitness centers. In the west metro, Minnetonka bought the Marsh wellness center this year for nearly $4.3 million after the YMCA of the North shut it down as part of a broader series of Y fitness center closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the north metro, Lino Lakes last year reopened the city’s shuttered YMCA.

But Minneapolis can’t afford to buy the YWCA’s fitness centers, said Zach Schultz, a spokesman for Council Member Lisa Goodman whose ward includes Uptown and downtown.

Minneapolis Park Board Commissioner Elizabeth Shaffer, whose district also encompasses downtown and Uptown, said that while the facilities are an important community asset — especially for seniors — buying and maintaining them would be feasible for the Park Board only if it partnered with another entity to share the costs.

“I don’t think this is something the Park Board could take on by itself,” said Shaffer, who canceled her YWCA Uptown membership following the closure announcement. “We all love the idea of more public places … but it all comes down to funding.”

Park Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers said the board has had limited conversations about the YWCA properties. Hennepin County spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan said she’s not aware of any formal discussions about buying the buildings.

No listing price has been disclosed for the buildings, and their property values aren’t public information because the YWCA is tax-exempt. But the YWCA likely will make millions of dollars on the sales.

Shifting focus

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

“It’s really hard to see it go,” Carthen Watson said. “Our facilities are more than

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