City officials, community leaders and representatives of the YMCA yesterday announced a tentative agreement to rehabilitate the 70-year-old Anthony Bowen YMCA and eventually preserve it as a historic landmark.
The agreeement, worked out in a two-hour meeting in Mayor Marion Barry's office, marked the first step toward possible resolution of the controversy that grew out of the recent closing of the Bowen Y. But it failed to end widespread criticism in the Shaw community that was triggered by the abrupt closing of the facility Feb. 22.
The agreement would commit the YMCA to build a satellite facility on land it already owns adjacent to the Bowen building at 1816 12th St. NW. The structure was named for a freed slave who opened here the first YMCA for blacks in the country.
The city and YMCA officials also will negotiate a land swap that will turn over the old Bowen building to the District in exchange for another tract owned by the District.
The YMCA then would build a larger facility on the new parcel of land to serve a broader section of District residents, but would maintain the satellite branch next to Bowen. The agreement did not specify which land the city would exchange, but suggested the Emery playground at Georgia and Missouri avenues NW.
Barry also said he agreed to lead a private fund drive to collect $150,000 to renovate and reopen at least two floors of the Bowen building for YMCA use while the building adjacent to it is being constructed.
Thomas B. Hargrave Jr., president of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, said he will ask for a meeting of the board soon and will recommend the "framework" of the agreement, but said many details remain to be worked out. Hargrave said he personally endorsed the proposal to establish a "permanent building base" in the Shaw community.
The agreement ended several weeks of difficult negotiations conducted by former City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, who was asked by Barry to arrange a settlement.
Although YMCA officials said the Bowen building is unsafe, Shaw community leaders contended that the YMCA was abandoning the mostly poor and middle-income black neighborhood.
"This is a very, very positive framework" for agreement, Barry said yesterday. "The community was the winner. This is one time the community has demonstrated its ability to rise to the occasion. It's been rough, it's been rocky."
But some community leaders indicated that they were less than satified with the arrangement.
"I'm still skeptical," said former assistant police chief Tilmon O'Bryant. A member of the Bowen branch management committee, O'Bryant said YMCA officials have made promises in the past in support of the Bowen Y, but have not followed through.
D.C. Recreation Department director William H. Rumsey, chairman of the Bowen management committee and a leading critic of the YMCA's actions, would not comment.
Council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), in whose ward the facility is located, and Ibrahim Mumin, a leader of a neigborhood group whose goal is to save the Bowen Y, both accepted the "framework" of the agreement. But Clarke said it is up to the YMCA to make the agreement work.
Mumin said an already announced community demonstration in support of Bowen will be held as scheduled Sunday at 3 p.m.
Tucker's report yesterday said the deterioration at Bowen "is not a sudden problem . . . The deterioration results primarily from neglect."
Hargrave, who declined to comment specifically on the report, said the YMCA will continue temporary operations in the community, and said it has opened a short-term facility at 1307 W St. NW.