Five months after the closing of the Anthony Bowen YMCA in Shaw, Mayor Marion Barry yesterday announced plans to begin a $100,000 fund-raising drive to restore the historic building, and possibly, to swap city land for the site.
The mayor also asked the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington to reconsider earlier plans to end all involvement with Bowen, "and instead become a full partner in the use of the historic site," which housed the first black YMCA chapter in America.
YMCA officials and Shaw neighborhood activists, who have been bitterly divided over the Bowen closing, said yesterday they were relieved that the mayor had finally announced a plan, which they have been awaiting for two months.
Both Thomas B. Hargrave Jr., president of the YMCA, and Ibrahim Mumin, chairman of the Shaw Ad Hoc Committee to Save Bowen, said Barry's proposals provide a reasonable framework for reopening the building and resolving other related issues.
The YMCA closed the 70-year-old building at 12th and S streets NW last Feb. 23, citing safety problems and the financial drain of operating the four-story brick structure. The closing sparked bitter reactions in the black community, with neighborhood activists charging that the YMCA was negligent in allowing the center to deteriorate while the organization built a multimillion-dollar facility downtown.
Barry's plan closely follows a proposed settlement outlined by former City Council chairman Sterling Tucker, who studied the situation last March at Barry's request.
Barry said he would appoint Andrew M. Ockershausen, executive vice president of WMAL radio, to head the fund drive for Bowen. He asked the YMCA to administer the money, and once repairs are made under city supervision, to consider moving programs back to the abandoned building. A new commission would study the building's long-term use.
Later, the mayor said, after "full discussion" with the affected neighborhoods, the city would consider giving the YMCA an unspecified parcel of land and taking title to Bowen in exchange.
Hargrave said the YMCA board of directors, headed by its new chairman, IBM executive Kent Cushenberry, will consider Barry's proposal at its meeting Tuesday. Mumin, who led a demonstration of about 40 persons yesterday outside the YMCA headquarters at 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW, said the committee would also participate in the negotiations suggested by the mayor.
William H. Rumsey, chairman of the YMCA's Bowen management committee, called Barry's move a "step forward" and said he hoped it would result in rapid reopening of the building, which he said has been steadily deteriorating since its closing.