Despite opposition from some members, the YWCA is continuing to negotiate the sale of its building at 17th and K streets, NW.
Paula Jeffries, a member of the board of directors of the National Capital Area YWCA, told members at a meeting last week that negotiations with one prospective buyer, whose proposal originally was considered most advantageous, had run into difficulties. But she said the real estate committee, which she heads, is currently negotiating with two other bidders. She declined to name them.
All three bidders, according to sources, offerred more then $6.4 million for the property, which is in an area where office space rents for about $12 a square foot.
Jeffries said a site that had been considered for a new facility - at 14th and G streets, NW - was not longer available, but the board was considering several other downtown sites.
At the meeting, attended by about 65 persons, five persons questioned the wisdom of the move and collected about a dozen petition signatures to force a membership vote on the issue. The petition asked that a special meeting be held and that the board take no action until after that meeting. YWCA by-laws provide that such a meeting may be called on a petition signed by at least 25 members. However, the by-laws also state that the board of directors has sole responsibility for disposing of property.
Anne Shultz, board treasurer, presented a financial statement showing a deficit of $57,572 for the fiscal year ending June, 1977. Shultz said the sale of the building would enable the YWCA to return to a sounder financial basis.
Eleanor Shannahan of Arlington who said she used the downtown YWCA regularly, asked if the deficit was the result of costs associated with the downtown YWCA or suburban facilities. Shannahan and others suggested that the downtown building was being used to finance building programs and poor budgeting in the suburbs.
Regina Saxton, board president, said the D.C. branch had a deficit last year of about $27,000. After the meeting, YWCA officials confirmed that a building fund earmarked for the D.C. branch was used as collateral for a loan to build the Fairfax YWCA.
The YWCA is spending about $50,000 a year to repay the loan, according to YWCA officials, but the money is from a separate fund and is not reflected in the deficit.
Frederick Lee, a member of a committee set up by the board to explore real estate options, said the committee had considered renovating the building but discarded the option when told it would cost about $2 million. He said another option - to sell the building and lease space in a new building to be built on the site - also was discarded as financially unfeasible. Lee said any contract to sell the building would provide that the YWCA have several years to move, enough time to build a another facility.
"For the YWCA to continue," said Lee, "it is necessary to unlock the value of this property. If it is sold at a figure contemplated, there will be a sizeable capital surplus that can be used to finance programs."
Other board sources confirmed that while the YWCA expects to sell the 17th and K Street facility for at least $5 million, it hopes to replace the facility for less than $5 million.
Mary McCall of the District said she thought the board was making a serious mistake. "Given what happened with the YMCA," she said, "the new building might turn out to be too expensive for people to use."
Jeffries replied that the YWCA was committed "not to compete with the YMCA in creating an expensive health club."
In response to a question about facilities the new building would have, Mildred Savacool, executive Director of the National Capital Area YWCA, said the YWCA would "try to provide facilities to serve the total person, including a pool." She pointed out that pools are very expensive and said a decision on specific facilities would be made "on the basis of the needs of the community."
The question of whether the new building would include facilities comparable to those in the present building - a pool, a gym and an auditorum - is one of the concerns of board members who oppose the decision to move. "It may turn out to be a rap session around a mimeograph machine," said Frances Stickles of Bethesda in a telephone interview. Stickels added that the option of rehabilitating the present building had not received thorough consideration.