The board of directors of the YWCA last week voted to authorize the sale of their 52-year-old building at 17th and K Streets NW to the John Akridge Company, a local development firm.
Mildred Savacool, executive director of the YWCA, said the selling price cited in a draft sales contract approved by the board was "in excess of $6.5 million." Savacool said that technicalities needed to be worked out before the sales contract could be signed. Both sides said they had agreed that the Y could take up to 42 months before going to final settlement on the sale.
Savacool said a YWCA committee is looking for a new building in the downtown area, preferably near a Metro station.
Developer John Akridge confirmed in a telephone interview that he was the successful bidder for the property, but declined to confirm or deny details of the contract.
"We're paying a very high price for the property, but it's the best potential development site in downtown Washington," Akridge said. He said he plans to tear down the building and put up "a class A office building." Akridge said it would be a 12-story, 180,000-foot office building - maximum allowed under C-4 zoning.
Akridge is currently constructing an office building on the northeast corner of 15th and K Streets, NW.
The YWCA has been in financial difficulty for the past eight years, running an average annual deficit of $50,000. Members of the board who favor the sale have said they see it as a way out of these difficulties, because the YWCA hopes to replace its present facility for considerably less than the $6.5 selling price.
The vote to sell the building at last week's meeting was 27-3. The three members who opposed the sale submitted a minority report, blaming poor management for the budget deficits and calling for renovation of the 17th and K Street building.
The YWCA has been trying to arrange a sale since last October when the board authorized its real estate committee to enter into negotiations with a prospective buyer. But negotiations were not successful and the committee later started talking with Akridge.
Savacool said the signed contract for the sale of the YWCA property will be submitted to a vote of the members at a meeting on Jan. 30.
She expressed confidence that the members would ratify the board's action.
"People who join just to use the facilities and who work within a few blocks of the building may be nervous about moving even a few blocks," she said, "but people who care about what the Y really stands for will come to the meeting and support the board."
The Jan. 30 meeting was called as a result of a position circulated by a group of members opposed to the sale and calling itself the Save the YWCA Committee.
Regina Saxton, president of the board of directors, originally that the baord had sole responsibility for the sale of the property. Eleanor Shannahan, spokeswoman for the Save the YWCA Committee, countered that, "As a member I feel I have the right to vote on the sale of the building - a sale that will greatly affect the future of the Y in downtown Washington. Further, I understand that the D.C. code gives me that right."
A provision of the D.C. codes states than in certain cases members of non-profit corporations have the right to vote on the sale of "all or substantially all of the assets of the corporation."
Attorney Robert O'Malley of Covington & Burling, which is handling the legal aspects of the sale for the YWCA, said he did not know whether that provision would apply in this case.
Last week's vote to sell the building came after several years of discussions of the Y's financial problems. In 1975 Gladstone Associates, an economic consulting firm, recommended that the Y sell the 17th and K Street facility, "thus unlocking the value of the land."
The sale of the building, according to Savacool "is a matter of survival. It's a matter of the Y's ability to provide services. We don't have to be on the most expensive property in town."
Jeanne Martinez, one of the board members who opposed the move called the planned sale "a quick fix to solve all problems without really dealing with the deficit."
In a minority report read into the record at last week's meeting the three board members who voted against the move suggested that poor management was responsible for the deficit. The minority expressed fears that the Y program would suffer because the present facilities - a pool, gym and a concert hall - might not be duplicated in any new facility the group could afford.
The minority proposed that the present building be renovated on a step-by-step basis as funds became available. One way to finance this, according to the minority report, would be to sell Strong Residence, an annex to the building constructed in 1935. The residence, which is connected to the main building, is included in the real estate deal with Ackridge.