Y seeks partial demo, will erect gym

April 6, 2012
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YMCA officials plan to demolish a corner of the historic building at 316 Huntington Ave. and build a slightly bigger addition as part of extensive renovations in a separate from but related project to the Northeastern University (NU) Grandmarc dorm. The addition would house a new pool and gym.

This is a different undertaking from the demolition of the gym building that faces St. Botolph Street as part of the Grandmarc project. That project has been discussed in over a year’s worth of public meetings. The YMCA never mentioned other demolition plans in these meetings, though it did say updates to the facilities would happen.

The YMCA held meetings for its members about this project starting last year, along with newsletters and brochures. It also held a public community meeting in February, YMCA spokesperson Wendy Zinn told the Gazette.

A Letter of Intent (LOI) was filed with the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) last week outlining the project. The YMCA would demolish approximately 22,300 square feet on the northeastern corner of the historic building, an area that houses “an outdated pool and antiquated squash courts,” according to the letter.

The YMCA would then build a 23,000-square-foot, three-story addition that would house a handicapped-accessible and family-friendly “aquatics center,” as well as a new gymnasium and new handball/racquetball courts.

“The way that it’s going to be built will vastly improve our ability to use the space,” YMCA spokesperson Kelley Rice said.

The remainder of the YMCA would also undergo a complete interior renovation as part of the project. The YMCA board of directors voted to approve the plan in January, Rice said.

Currently, the Y has one full-sized basketball court and one quarter-court and three handball courts. After renovations, those numbers will decrease to one full-sized basketball court and two handball courts, Rice said.

“They’re talking about an expansion, but it’s actually a reduction in the number of basketball and handball courts,” YMCA member Richard Orareo said. “Things are being lost in order to give Northeastern the opportunity to build its dorm.”

Orareo is one of the plaintiffs in one of two lawsuits hoping to halt the Grandmarc project.

Another public meeting will be required as part of the BRA process, but that has not yet been scheduled. Rice said the YMCA will likely file the next piece of required paperwork, a Project Notification Form (PNF), with the BRA by the end of April.

The scheduling of demolition and construction will be planned to coincide with the Grandmarc project’s timeline, Rice said.

“It makes the most sense for both parties” and to avoid greater inconvenience to YMCA members, she said.

Two lawsuits filed against the Grandmarc project are still ongoing in Superior Court. Demolition cannot begin until the suits are resolved. Demolition for that project was originally scheduled to start last June.

Andre Jones, one of the attorneys for the lawsuits, did not wish to comment.

The LOI states that the Boston Landmarks Commission has already ruled that the project is not subject to demolition delay. The project is currently under review by the Massachusetts Historical Commission as well as the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The GrandMarc at Northeastern project, located at behind the YMCA building, would allow NU to keep its promise to Mission Hill residents of 600 more on-campus beds.

Under the proposed plan, developer PPC Land Ventures, Inc. would purchase and demolish the YMCA’s gym, then build a 17-story dorm tower in its place. PPC would then lease the dorm to NU long-term.

Gazette calls to Northeastern and PPC were not returned by press time.

 

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