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VOL. 121 | NO. 185 | Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Y and Where

Quince area could become YMCA's corporate headquarters

By Amy O. Williams

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POINT OF ORIGIN: A vacant lot next to the Ric Nuber YMCA at 5885 Quince Road in East Memphis is one option for the soon-to-be-relocated metro offices of the YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South. -- Photo By Amy O. Williams

Officials at YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South are looking to move the 150-year-old organization's metropolitan offices back to Memphis.

One of the possible locations for the headquarters is a 2.3-acre lot adjacent to the Ric Nuber YMCA at 5885 Quince Road in East Memphis.

The offices have been in a shopping center in Collierville at 777 W. Poplar Ave. since 1999, but could move within the next two years, said Ron Brandon, the organization's chief financial officer.

"We really think that, given that we're the YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South, we're actually looking at building our corporate offices and a training center at the corner of Quince and Lynnfield," Brandon said. "We'd be more centrally located for all of our branches."

A financial question

YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South
- Memphis YMCA founded in 1855, 11 years after the YMCA started in London

- Original building at Fourth Street and Madison Avenue dedicated by President William H. Taft in 1909

- Schilling Farms YMCA opened in 1999

- Metro offices moved from Downtown to Collierville in 1999

- Olive Branch Family YMCA opened in 2005

- Metro offices possibly planned for Quince Road and Lynnfield Place in East Memphis near Ric Nuber YMCA

A new facility could open in the now-empty wooded lot at Quince Avenue and Lynnfield Drive some time in the next two years. The possible cost to build the new building is driving the feasibility of the project, Brandon said, but he declined to give a figure. However, construction of the Olive Branch Family YMCA in 2004 cost about $5.5 million.

Another possibility for the relocation would be rental space in the East Memphis area, said Keith Johnson, president and CEO.

Officials at the YMCA have been looking at some space in the area, and have been talking about a design if the organization decides to build something.

"We're not set on anything just yet in the East Memphis area," Johnson said.

Another goal for the YMCA in coming years would be to have an employee training center, which the organization currently does not have.

"We'd like to have a space for our staff to get together, for board of directors meetings, those kinds of things," Johnson said. "We do a lot of training at the Y, we probably have two or three a quarter, where we might have anywhere from 30 to 50 people in doing some kind of training."

That training includes anything from child care and aquatics to management and computers.

Fancy financing

The metro headquarters moved to Collierville in 1999 from the Downtown Fogelman YMCA at 245 Madison Ave. That was the same year the Schilling Farms YMCA opened in Collierville.

"We really think that, given that we're the YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South, we're actually looking at building our corporate offices and a training center at the corner of Quince and Lynnfield. We'd be more centrally located for all of our branches."
- Ron Brandon
Chief financial officer for YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South

The move was made because the YMCA had been leasing shopping center space on Poplar Avenue for use as a startup facility before Schilling Farms opened. Since there was a lease in place for three years, the metro offices were moved there once the YMCA at Schilling Farms was complete.

The YMCA has owned the property at Quince and Lynnfield since the early 1960s. The property was one of two recently used as collateral for a loan to buy the facility that houses the Olive Branch Family YMCA at 8555 Goodman Road.

The $6.8 million loan filed through Wachovia Bank was one of two loans filed by YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South Sept. 14.
The Mason YMCA at 3547 Walker Ave. near the University of Memphis also was used for collateral in the loan.

The loan will be used to buy the Olive Branch YMCA, which opened in 2005. The YMCA had been leasing the property from developer Chris Woods of Chris Woods Construction Co., based in Memphis, since its completion in May 2005.

"We had an option to purchase (the Olive Branch facility) and we exercised that option, and that's why we did this (financing) deal," Brandon said.

Like the Schilling Farms YMCA in Collierville, the Olive Branch YMCA was built to be the cornerstone of a residential and commercial development. The purchase of the build-to-suit facility in Olive Branch will have no effect on the YMCA itself, Brandon said.

"The transaction facilitates us owning the building, and that was really our intention to begin with," Brandon said. "That was the easiest way for us to get into Olive Branch - doing the build to suit."

Ties that bind

At this point, the YMCA owns 10.5 acres in Olive Branch, with the building sitting on about 6.5 acres. YMCA officials have considered developing the four remaining acres behind the building that houses the YMCA, but have no immediate plans.

Having a YMCA in Olive Branch certainly has been an asset for the community, said Vicki Dupree, executive director of the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce.

When people look to move into the area, she said, they look for activities for families, and the YMCA provides that.

"It's good for the community to have an area where families can go and exercise and have a pool, so it is a community benefit," Dupree said.

In the past decade, the Memphis YMCA opened new facilities in Collierville, Millington and Fayette County. Additionally, several existing YMCAs have been upgraded and refurbished. The Ric Nuber YMCA, formerly the East Memphis YMCA, was among the facilities receiving upgrades.

In 2003, that YMCA was expanded to include a wellness center, aerobics room, a community room and a larger parking lot.

In the fall, when the YMCA of Memphis and Mid-South celebrated 150 years, the YMCA's board of directors decided to honor retiring president and chief executive officer Ric Nuber by renaming the East Memphis YMCA in his honor.

The original Memphis YMCA at Madison Avenue and Fourth Street, now the Fogelman Downtown YMCA, opened in 1909 and was dedicated by President William H. Taft.

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