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Mt. Juliet YMCA to close

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Mt. Juliet YMCA to close | YMCA, Mt. Juliet, Valley Center

YMCA of Middle Tennessee has announced plans to close this storefront facility in Mt. Juliet's Valley Center. Y officials are seeking another site. JOHN BUTWELL / Special to The Wilson Post

MT. JULIET -- The YMCA is looking for a new home in Mt. Juliet, and city officials say they will try to help.

After Jessica Fain, spokeswoman for the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, announced plans to close the Y’s storefront facility in the Valley Center shopping center at 1315 North Mt. Juliet Road at the end of this year, she added that the Y plans to continue serving its members in Mt. Juliet.

“Although we do not have a solution immediately in hand, we are working very hard to identify other alternatives to maintain our presence in the community,” she said. “We are grateful for the continued support of our members and volunteers in Mt. Juliet.”

The Y’s lease on the 8,000-square-foot storefront facility it has been using will expire after seven years at the end of 2014. The non-profit YMCA of Middle Tennessee said it couldn’t reach agreement with the Valley Center’s owners on a lease extension. The Y serves about 2,000 members at the facility.

City Manager Kenny Martin said he understands that “sometimes business decisions are made that we wish could be different,” but the city will try to help the YMCA relocate.

“The landlord didn’t want to renew their lease, but we will try to help them find a new spot,” he said.

Mayor Ed Hagerty said he’s sorry to hear the YMCA is planning to close its storefront location, but he understands that another, for-profit fitness center is planning to open a larger storefront in the Valley Center.

“I’m very sorry to hear their plans didn’t work out,” Hagerty said about the Y’s announcement. “We were hoping for a full-service Y in Mt. Juliet. Planet Fitness is going into the Valley Center. They’ve taken the Goodwill building and want more space. I guess it’s just not practical to have two in the same center.”

Martin also confirmed that “Planet Fitness is taking the space Goodwill had and the Laser Tag space next to that, for a longer term” than the Y was willing to sign a lease for.

That was the sticking point for the YMCA, according to Fain’s announcement. The Y doesn’t want to commit to a long-term lease while it’s trying to find ways to expand in Mt. Juliet that might not fit into the space at the Valley Center.

“As we are continuing to evaluate the best way to expand our YMCA services in the Mt. Juliet community,” Fain said, “we do not feel it would be prudent to enter into another long-term lease at the current location, so we will not be renewing our lease.”

Fain added that “while we had hoped it might be possible to arrange for a shorter-term arrangement at the Valley Center as we continued to evaluate other options for expansion, we recently learned such an agreement was not a possibility.”

However, Fain reassured Y members that the closing of the Valley Center facility will not be immediate. “Rest assured that we continue to evaluate our options for a new Y location and will of course continue to serve members at the Valley Center in the coming months,” she said.

Meanwhile, the YMCA’s leadership team recently listed the Y’s property on Lebanon Road in North Mt. Juliet for sale, so the Y is continuing to rule out that site as a location for a new Mt. Juliet facility.

About seven months ago, the YMCA of Middle Tennessee announced it was dropping plans to build a new Y on the Lebanon Road property because plans for the facility depended on a fundraising campaign which, according to Fain, had “never really gotten out of the early stages.”

The approximately 55-acre property originally belonged to the Jack E. Casey, Peggy Chandler and Evans Chandler Trust. The YMCA bought 14.25 acres on the highway, and the trust donated the other 40.85 landlocked acres.

Fain confirmed Monday that the Lebanon Road property is listed for a $2.1 million asking price with Southeast Venture Real Estate.

Back in December 2013 when the YMCA first announced its change of plans for the property, Fain said there was no provision for the donated portion to revert to the trust or any other community entity in the event the YMCA decided not to build there, and representatives of the Chandler Trust could not be reached for comment.

The property in question is located in City Commission District 1. It’s just across Cedar Creek from the Little League field, according the district’s commissioner, Ray Justice. The land also is attached to the city’s planned greenway, Justice said.

“As was previously announced, late last year, our staff and volunteer leaders made the decision to pursue selling the Lebanon Road property on which construction had been contingent on fundraising efforts,” Fain said in the Y’s most recent statement. “Although the capital campaign to develop that property for a full-facility Y did not materialize, we have continued to seek other ways we might expand our YMCA presence in Mt. Juliet.”

That expansion effort is ongoing, Fain continued, but nothing is ready to announce so far.

“There are no new details to share at this time regarding an alternate location,” she said, “but we will continue to keep members and the community informed of any new developments as they occur.”

This past December, Fain did give a hint or two about the options that the Y is considering to expand in Mt. Juliet, however.

“There are no specific plans for a new Y at this time,” she said in her statement in late 2013, “but we have very recently conducted some additional market research to test the demand for a facility in other locations (than the Lebanon Road property), perhaps as a build-to-suit lease option, which may prove to be more financially feasible and would not require as much capital fundraising.”

Correspondent Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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