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City board to consider approving Huntington Ave. YMCA addition

Posted by Johanna Kaiser  June 12, 2012 03:18 PM

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The city’s redevelopment board is set to consider whether to allow the Greater Boston YMCA to move forward with plans to demolish and rebuild portions of its Huntington Avenue YMCA to modernize the aging facility and make way for a high-rise dormitory.

Boston Redevelopment Authority is scheduled to vote at its monthly meeting Tuesday night on whether to waive further review of the project under its Article 80 review of large projects.

If the project is given the go-ahead, officials expect to start the 18-month process of rebuilding the facility’s pool and squash courts as early as this fall.

The project, as outlined by the Y, calls for the demolition of a 22,300-square-foot portion of the existing structure, which contains the facility’s pool, and squash courts.

In its place the YMCA will construct a 23,000-square-foot addition, which will include a lap and therapy pools and modern basketball and handball courts.

The addition allows the Y to accommodate the loss of its gym building, which the Y has sold to Phoenix Property Co. The company plans to build a $75 million, 17-story dormitory for Northeastern in its place.

The gym and wellness facilities will be moved into the main building, which will be renovated to be more modern, efficient, and handicapped accessible.

At a community meeting late last month, Y members and neighborhood residents expressed some concerns about the project, but others were optimistic the changes would help the organization.

“I realized that this place is historic not because of the framework and everything; this place is historic because of the people,” said Christopher Rogers, 19, of Dorchester, who has been coming to the Y since he was a child and continues to frequent the club when he is home from college.

“If we weren’t in this building--if we were in some different building--it would still be the Y,” he said.

Still, the project has been met with push back from members and residents who say the organization is offering too much of its space to Northeastern--allowing the institution to grow at the expense of the Y and its membership.

“This is going to tear a gaping wound in the East Fenway,” said Fenway resident Calvin Arey. “We see the Y retaining such a small piece here. It’s virtually destroying the institution.”

But Y officials and supporters of the plan say these projects will improve services for members and help the organization continue to grow.

"If this Y doesn't change or allow some things to be rebuilt, then there won't be a Y in 100 years," Rogers said to applause.

Northeastern’s GrandMarc dorm project gained support from city as a way to keep college students from moving off campus and into surrounding neighborhoods, but more than 1,200 opponents have signed a petition to oppose the project and unsuccessfully appealed to the Boston Landmarks Commission to stop it. Opponents have also lawsuit based on zoning issues.

The city considers the construction of the dorm and this proposed addition as separate projects.

The board of the Boston Redevelopment Authority is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall. The Y project is scheduled to be taken up as the sixteenth agenda item.
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Twitter: @YTFenwayKenmore
E-mail: johanna.yourtown@gmail.com

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