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Winona YMCA

The Winona YMCA announced Thursday long-held plans to build a new facility in collaboration with Winona Health by selling its existing land and building to Kwik Trip. The project is dependent on internal fundraising, as well as the city rezoning the property.

The Winona YMCA on Thursday stepped back from plans to sell its building and land to Kwik Trip, following a contentious public hearing and a week of backlash from some concerned about a convenience store’s effects on downtown and the surrounding neighborhood.

Thursday’s decision doesn’t mean that the agreement or the project is dead, only that the YMCA is planning several new steps to address concerns and will also entertain other qualified offers.

The YMCA’s leadership and its board plan to re-engage homeowners in the historic Windom Park neighborhood and others to see if there is a different solution to funding the YMCA’s move, as some opponents suggested this week but without offering specifics. The YMCA also plans to publicly list the building and land for sale.

The YMCA will also continue discussions with city of Winona planning staff and officials about revising the comprehensive plan, a prerequisite to rezoning the land, currently zoned as residential.

“As a community-based charitable organization, the YMCA seeks to serve the greatest number of our neighbors possible through programs that improve total wellbeing,” YMCA CEO Derek Madsen said in a statement. “Forging onward with an issue that is potentially divisive is not in line with our goals for the organization.”

“All of this must be done in a timely fashion,” he said. “The Y is committed to resolving this issue quickly so that we can progress with our project. We will continue to pursue the greatest possible community support.”

The biggest challenge to the YMCA’s plans came from Windom Park neighbors and others upset not with the Y’s plan to relocate, but instead with the relocation resulting in a convenience store on the west end of downtown at the foot of the new interstate bridge, with concerns including lighting, traffic, and overall fit.

The plan has also drawn large support, not only from longtime YMCA backers and those interested in the proposed collaboration with Winona Health, where the YMCA is planning to develop its new facility, but others who pointed out that the La Crosse-based Kwik Trip has been approachable and flexible in developing several stores in Winona to fit in with surrounding neighborhoods.

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Others have noted that the neighborhood has changed dramatically in the last two years because of the bridge project, which led to the removal of nearly two dozen residential and commercial properties, and has led to a number of proposed or ongoing new developments, including the owners of the former Timbers restaurant proposing a major mixed-use retail and residential development.

The Winona Planning Commission on Monday, following an hours-long meeting that drew an overflow crowd to City Hall chambers, narrowly voted to recommend denial of changing the comprehensive plan. That recommendation was scheduled to come before the Winona City Council at its first June meeting, but has subsequently been pulled, city staff said Thursday.

The loss of Kwik Trip could mean a major blow to the YMCA’s plan to raise $13 million for the move. The company has proposed purchasing the building for $750,000, but more importantly offered as a donation paying for the demolition and site prep, estimated to cost nearly the equivalent of the purchase price. There isn’t any alternative to the proposal, at least not one that’s been announced publicly and backed with similar funding.

“(Kwik Trip’s) aim was to support the community by bringing a solution to our concern of future use, and we are grateful to them,” Madsen said.

The YMCA hasn’t previously listed its building and land for sale, but has approached a number of area parties without success in recent years, targeting those who would be interested in and financially capable of developing a building constructed more than 60 years ago and renovated multiple times specifically for the Y’s purposes, including a pair of swimming pools and other features.

The YMCA had hoped, during the planning phases of the interstate bridge project years ago, that the bridge landing would extend into the YMCA’s property, forcing the Minnesota Department of Transportation to buy the building and land. But that didn’t happen, with MnDOT instead carefully routing the plan around the property.

The YMCA is working to create a state-of-the-art building the organization believes will meet the community’s current needs while providing new and innovative wellness models aimed at serving everyone from seniors to at-risk youth to Winona Health clients. It has been investigating and planning a move for several years, but has not been able to find enough donors in the community to fully fund a move without first selling its existing assets.

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(11) comments

Hive

Duh on me. I go to front page, see QT dropped idea, which makes excellent sense from business point of view.

I think a bawdy house be best, and a rebirth of a bawdy 2nd Street. What's to want?

Red Hawk

If the neighborhood does not want their neighborhood zoning changed then it should not be changed. Who paid taxes over the 3 decades? NOT the YMCA, there are like 2 YMCA's in the state of Minnesota that could operate on their own. The others operate on handouts.

Leslie Hittner

It's highly unlikely that a developer will be willing to take on a townhouse or condo project there. The demolition costs are too high to make such a development economically feasible -IMHO.

If the YMCA is able to generate enough cash, the old building will likely sit there and deteriorate - like the WMS auditorium -until it falls into its own swimming pools.

Many of the arguments against the move last Monday drew on obviously false information. For instance, fears that trucks would slide off the bridge into a gas pump and start a fire...the approach angles toward the old bridge so as to join the intersection near Winona Street. Even if a truck did slide off the bridge it would at worst hit the Kwik Trip sign likely located on the corner of the property.

These people had no arguments - only fear...

janedoe

I am surprised at this response from Mr. Hittner. I was also at the commission meeting and heard many concerns, only one of which mentioned concern about safety of a truck coming off the bridge and hitting a gas pump. What I heard were extremely valid concerns about the impact of a business which will be highly lit, high traffic and will, according to Kwik Trip, have entrances/exits on 3 of the 4 sides. These will all have a serious negative impact on surrounding homes, including Windom park. Despite Kwik Trip's claims, there are still homes surrounding that property. If Kwik Trip is built there, that will be the back drop for the fountain in Windom Park.

Those who are fearful are those who want the Y to get funding for their new facility--without actually dipping into their own pocket or having a new Kwik Trip, half a mile from one and under a mile from another--impact their own home or neighborhood.
Several suggestions came forward that evening, despite the extremely short notice of the sale to Kwik Trip. Mr. Hittner is incorrect about the lack of ideas. Those lacking ideas seem to be only those who wish for the Y to have as quick and profitable sale as possible, with no concern at all about the impact on the surrounding properties and neighborhood.

I live in the neighborhood which will be affected by the Y move (which I support) and am extremely concerned about how this will affect my neighborhood, my home value, and multiple businesses within very easy walking distance, including groceries and coffee shops which already contribute to a vibrant neighborhood.

Doc26

Nothing like living at the foot of the bridge with all the trucks. YWCA

Kryz

A god location for upscale townhouses with exteriors that fit with existing architectural styles - no plastic boxes. Older adult who are downsizing would like to move into devolpments that are within the central area of the city.

hansmad

I believe the gist of public comments had to do with the long-term impact of any and all proposals. From the time the sale was announced to the public hearing, only ten days elapsed, which is not a lot of time to consider the proposal and subsequent impact. Who knows, maybe we'll be back to the Kwik Trip idea, but maybe not. I read the YMCA statement twice, and it strikes me that there is a tone of annoyance, a message of, "Fine, we'll give it time, but then we'll be back with our original idea." I hope such is not the case, but a level of distrust has arisen that will take more than mere words to mitigate.

Anonymous444

No kidding....I hope the city buys it now and puts in another parking lot. Or maybe Fastenal will make another space, or hey how about WSU can make more dorms for students. then the neighborhood can look at that instead. I mean what else do you guys want there

chaosangel31

What's so wrong with having a gas station at the foot of the bridges I think that it would be great and not like if there is any need for police asstaince the police Dept is close by and what if those people need anything quick the closest kwik trips are on the east and west ends of town and down by the college it makes perfect sense I think I always liked having the Dino gas station in the area before they tore it down to build the bridge think about that conveince

Leslie Hittner

Agree...

calliope

Concerned neighbors that do not want their neighborhood downgraded by Kwik Trip should pony up and buy the land.

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