The board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington YMCA, changing a position it took last month, voted yesterday to begin planning a new $1 million facility adjacent to the now-vacant Anthony Bowen YMCA in Shaw.
Construction of the new YMCA building, which tentatively would include a basketball court, day-care and classroom space and other facilities, is a key element in a five-part plan that also involves a land swap between the D.C. government and the YMCA.
The plan, drafted by former City Council chairman Sterling Tucker, is aimed at reopening the Bowen facility as a historic site and expanding YMCA services in the Shaw-Cardozo area in Northwest Washington.
Tucker, who drew up the plan at the direction of Mayor Marion Barry, said yesterday's vote was a positive step toward resolving the controversy that began when the YMCA abruptly closed the 70-year-old community center for safety and financial reasons on Feb. 22.
"I don't know how much $1 million will buy, but their concept appears to be in line," Tucker said.
However, Tucker added that many more details, especially the land transfers, must be worked out between Barry, the YMCA and the Shaw community. "Unless there is some conversation between the mayor and the YMCA, however, this will not happen . . . There has to be leadership," Tucker said.
Yesterday, Barry's press secretary, Annette Samuels, said the mayor has not discussed the matter with YMCA officials in several weeks and had not yet been informed of yesterday's vote. "The mayor will continue to work with them, if they want to work with him," she said.
The YMCA vote yesterday altered a position the board took April 20. At that time, the board said it would not pursue plans for a new facility on YMCA-owned land adjacent to Bowen until an unspecified later date when it would study whether such a facility was needed and whether the YMCA could afford it.
Following the April 20 vote, Tucker had said the Y's failure to approve the new facility jeopardized the entire plan, in which the city would have given land to the YMCA--possibly the Emery playground at Georgia and Missouri avenues NW, a site the Y has long sought for a new facility to replace Bowen. Tucker said the mayor and the city council would not approve the land deal unless the Y agreed to build in Shaw.
Thomas B. Hargrave, president of the YMCA, who had recommended a price tag "not to exceed $1 million" for the new facility, would not discuss the board's vote yesterday.
Dr. Charles S. Tidball, chairman of the YMCA board, said he hoped yesterday's action would demonstrate the association's commitment to serving Shaw, generally a poor neighborhood.
The board yesterday committed $10,000 to planning the new building, he said, but successful completion will depend on fundraising. "We don't have the resources to build even this," Tidball said. "We are going to have to go to the community and have a capital fund drive."