Downtown Victoria YMCA-YWCA property sold for $22M

The downtown Victoria YMCA-YWCA property has been sold to Vancouver-based Concert Real Estate Corp. for nearly $22 million, but the fitness-social facility is not relocating immediately.

It is aiming for a smaller, more efficient facility to be built somewhere downtown with a development partner. Under the agreement with Concert, the Y can stay at 851 Broughton St. for up to seven years.

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The $21.969-million sale closed Friday on the 1.42 acre site, said Christine Gleed, chairwoman of the board of directors for the YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island.

“We have a building that is aging,” Gleed said Wednesday.

It was not feasible to renovate the 62,000-square-foot building, given that much of it is unused and inefficient and its need for seismic upgrading, she said.

Only 30,000 square feet of the Y building is being used now. “It is just an older style building,” Gleed said, adding that it has a lot of hallways and decommissioned office space that is no longer used.

Brian McCauley, Concert’s president and chief executive , said: “While our plans for this site are yet to be confirmed, we are committed to thoughtful planning and engagement that reflects Concert’s commitment to be a community-builder.”

Concert has developed condominiums in Victoria, converted the former Queen Victoria Hotel into rental units and is now building a seniors building with a 15-storey tower at the former Crystal Court Motel site on Belleville Street.

An agreement has also been struck that the non-profit organization will place $1.89 million with the city of Victoria as security for the Y’s commitment to provide health, fitness and recreation services downtown.

When the Y has relocated in the core and continues its services, the city will return the money to the organization.

If that doesn’t happen, Victoria will keep the money for a capital project dedicated to recreation and wellness.

This deal replaces a covenant that was put on the land in 1965 when the city donated some of the land for the project.

The downtown Y, bordered by Broughton, Courtney and Quadra streets, was officially opened by Premier W.A.C. Bennett 53 years ago. It was built for $1.4 million following a community campaign supported by citizens and different levels of government.

That building opened after two separate Y organizations in the city were consolidated. The YMCA, serving males, had its building on the corner of Blanshard and View streets, and the YWCA, for women, was at Blanshard and Courtney streets.

The YMCA-YWCA’s history in Victoria dates back more than 140 years. Gleed said each body had moved several times prior to consolidating.

Today, the downtown YMCA-YWCA has nearly 9,000 members (this does not include the Westhills YMCA), handles more than 600,000 visits per year and has 104 employees, she said.

YMCA officials have been trying to figure out what to do with the downtown property for more than a decade. Last year, it put out an request for proposals in the hopes of finding a development partner to either redevelop on Broughton or relocate elsewhere.

In the end, it seemed that the least complicated approach to move forward would be to sell the property first and then look for a partner, she said.

This plan is designed to allow the YMCA-YWCA to continue at its current location and then open in a new space without any interruption to members.

The idea would see the Y share a new building with a developer.

A new facility would likely need about 35,000 to 45,000 square feet, she said. Nothing is firmed up so far.

Gleed, who is optimistic that a partner will be found, is hoping the new facility will provide a place for downtown residents, many living in multi-family developments, to connect as a community.

“It is certainly our intention to make this move as quickly as we can.”

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