With only five days until its deadline, the committee appointed by Mayor Marion Barry to draft a plan to reopen the historic Anthony Bowen YMCA has agreed the building should be converted to a multipurpose community center. But the 13-member committee is still undecided about how to raise the estimated $2 million to rehabilitate the 73-year-old building in the Shaw section of the District.
"There are still some critical decisions that have to be made" about the ownership and operating expenses of the four-story building at 1816 12th St. NW, said one committee member. "We will be burning some midnight oil in the next few days" to draft a report by the May 23 deadline, he said.
Delegates to the committee have agreed not to discuss the issue publicly because of the past bitterness and controversy surrounding Bowen since the Metropolitan YMCA closed it for safety reasons in February 1982. The closing prompted angry protests in Shaw among residents who said the YMCA was negligent in allowing the building to deteriorate while maintaining its multi-million-dollar facility downtown at 1711 Rhode Island Ave. NW.
Three committee sources said the report due on Barry's desk Monday will call for Bowen to be converted to a center for job-training, education, recreation, senior citizens' programs, crafts and cultural programs, including promotion of black heritage and history.
The Bowen building is named for the freed slave who is credited with founding the first black YMCA chapter in America and was an important community gathering place for decades until its recent decline.
While agreeing on uses for Bowen after nine months of intermittent meetings, the committee has not yet resolved money questions. The committee is made up of YMCA and Shaw-community representatives. Under the proposed plan, the YMCA would probably play a lesser role in the center, which could be run in cooperation with the city or a community organization or a new non-profit corporation, committee members said.
"People are apprehensive about creating something that won't be self-sustaining and would need a perpetual subsidy to make sure that in two years the thing doesn't go belly-up," another member said.
Financing could come through a traditional fund drive, a federal Urban Development Action Grant or through a "syndication" process in which private investors would pay for the rehabilitation, lease the facility to the city or the nonprofit group, and, in return, receive a substantial tax credit, according to two committee members.
In a neighborhood where joblessness and poverty are common, more than 100 Shaw residents turned out at a community forum two months ago and said that Bowen should serve as a center for training and education rather than only a recreation center.
The YMCA wants the building reopened as soon as possible but is very concerned that it could be a serious financial drain for the association, committee members said. YMCA president Thomas Hargrave, a committee member, would not comment yesterday on the Y's position.
The YMCA last year wanted to swap the Bowen site for city-owned land so the association could build a new branch. Various city officials opposed the idea and it is not expected to be included in the final report, members said.
The committee's recommendation plan is expected to be delivered to Barry and the YMCA Board of Directors, but the next step is unclear.