Cape Ann YMCA officials, bidding to acquire the Fuller School site, said Monday their move was aimed at letting the city know their interest in the property and building.
But with Mayor Carolyn Kirk urging a subdividing of the property — with the city retaining some of the Fuller site for its own mixed use — Y leaders said they’ve been open to sharing Fuller from the get-go since submitting their expression of interest in late December.
Their application stated the intended use was to redevelop the property with the possibility of a new public safety building, a city hall annex and potential commercial space.
“We (offered to buy) in a very general way so we could keep all (our) options open,” Jack Meany, Chief Executive Officer of the North Shore YMCA, told the Times Monday. He confirmed that Y officials are open to the subdivision plan rather than the YMCA buying the property in its entirety.
“We’re open to whatever serves all constituents the best,” he said. “We’ve always been open to a number of ways to go.”
Meany said Y officials understand that the city would have to request other proposals, as well, but said it’s a good fit for creating a new YMCA facility.
“It comes down to a place that’s convenient for all,” Meany said, noting the lack of parking at the current YMCA on 71 Middle St.
The building space is also important, Meany said, adding that a building layout needs to be able to change with the times.
“If you needed to change the footprint of the interior of the building, you could do that with (this space),” he said. That is something that is “next to impossible” at the current YMCA, Meany said.
He added that the current facility is still on track for a “measured renovation” involving a new reception area and other changes, which would mean more room for program and health and wellness space.
Meany said the initial design process for that project is done, with YMCA officials currently going through the permitting process, and it should be renovated by the summer.
“We would like to get going on that as soon as we get approval,” he said.
If the YMCA does end up moving into Fuller down the line, Meany said it’s too early to tell what would happen with the current Middle Street site, but the Y would likely look to sell it so it could be repurposed.
“The city has never expressed any interest (to us) in that property,” he said.
Meanwhile, one of the city’s first steps in the YMCA move onto the Fuller property will be up to the ad-hoc Land Disposition Committee, which will then make a recommendation to Kirk.
That committee is composed of city staffers, including Public Works Director Mike Hale, members of the Health Department, officials from the planning and conservation departments, police Chief Leonard Campanello, fire Chief Eric Smith, and other officials, according to Community Development Director Tom Daniel.
In line with city ordinances, the committee meets when there is a proposal to buy city property, he said.
The city’s chief of administration said Monday he expects to be part of the decision-making process — as a city official and employee, not in his former role.
James Duggan had served on the Board of Directors at the Cape Ann YMCA but stepped down in June after serving about two years on the board.
“It’s a conflict of interest” to remain on the Y board at this point, Duggan said, adding that his first duty is to the city of Gloucester.
He said he resigned because he did not want to put anyone on either side of any YMCA-city talks in that position.
“I thought it was in everyone’s best interest to step away from the board,” he said.
The move by the YMCA to acquire property at the Fuller site, outlined by Kirk in her mayoral inaugural speech last Wednesday, also follows a 2012 MassDevelopment report, which cited a potential mixed use involving the YMCA, city offices and potential commercial space.
Kirk has also long talked about the Fuller site as a potential new headquarters for the city’s police and fire departments — a move that also has the endorsement of both chiefs, Campanello and Smith.
MassDevelopment noted after preliminary talks with YMCA officials at the time, that a majority of the Fuller School building would be used for a new YMCA, but that some demolition would be required.
Meany, however, said that nothing in the MassDevelopment report was carved in stone. The report outlined a potential space of 82,954 square feet, with a public safety center on the adjacent land.
“It was a good first look,” Meany said of the MassDevelopment outline.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-675-2708 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.