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Sale of Northeast YMCA hits fast track

A-Boy owner's plan to run facility as nonprofit is among the top 5 bids

The president of A-Boy Electric and Plumbing could be the next owner of the Northeast Portland YMCA, and it could happen as soon as this afternoon.

Dan Dolan is among the leading bidders for the 80-year-old building at Northeast Broadway and 38th Avenue. Officials of the YMCA of Columbia-Willamette say the facility is losing money and plan to shut it Jan. 31.

But a Y spokeswoman said this week that it has received five offers Ñ all unsolicited Ñ and is putting the sale on the fast track. The minimum price? $1.1 million.

The Y asked potential buyers to submit final offers by today. The Y's executive committee formed to handle the sale could choose a buyer as soon as its meeting this afternoon.

If a sale happens quickly, the new owners can continue operating the building past the Jan. 31 deadline. Each bidder plans on keeping the facility open, said Jana Cole, a Y spokeswoman.

Dolan, a 20-year member and regular swimmer at the Northeast Y, wants to buy the building and have it operated by a nonprofit organization. His effort has the support of many neighbors and members, said Tom Normington, one of more than 100 volunteers who have been working to raise $75,000 to $100,000 to help Dolan get the nonprofit started.

If successful, its new name would be the Northeast Community Center. It would continue to operate as it does today, Dolan said.

'There are a number of elderly people and young people who depend on this facility,' he said. 'This is not a place for the hard bodies, the triathletes who work out every day. This is a place for the old and for the young to go for swim lessons.'

So far, Normington said, members have raised nearly $40,000, and that's before launching a wider effort to raise money.

The Y set off a neighborhood furor last month when it announced plans to close the building, which opened 80 years ago this month. Officials said they were facing $50,000 in annual losses, declining membership, competition from a 24 Hour Fitness three blocks away and a building in need of $7 million in renovations.

Abandoning the Northeast Portland building would leave the YMCA with only one fitness facility in Portland, the Metro Family YMCA on Southwest Barbur Boulevard. In recent years, the Y has concentrated on the suburbs more than Portland, opening fitness centers in Sherwood and Vancouver, Wash.

Angry members and neighbors met with Y board members twice last month and again last week but failed to persuade them to keep it open.

The Y has set no deadline for when or if it will accept any of the offers but is optimistic that a sale can go through quickly.

'I think we have a really good opportunity,' Cole said. 'All are very viable offers.'

Cole would not identify the bidders. But one came from Mike Walling, a Vancouver, Wash., developer, who offered $610,000 for the building last month. He said he'd continue to operate it as a health club and community center, but he hasn't heard anything from the Y.

'Nope,' he said. 'Not a peep.'

Dolan said he submitted two offers earlier, and the Y rejected both. But he plans to turn in a third offer Tuesday.

No major renovations would be in the immediate future should the Y accept Dolan's offer.

'Once we make it a success, we can start considering our options,' said Jim Wrigley, one of the neighborhood volunteers helping Dolan's efforts.

First, he said, the nonprofit would need to increase memberships.

'That's the key to making this work,' Wrigley said. 'That will make it a more relevant community institution. We're pretty optimistic.'

There are no certainties that the nonprofit operation will succeed even if the sale to Dolan goes through, said Sara Normington, Tom's wife, who also is helping raise money.

'We're walking in the dark right now in terms of budget and what the expenses will be,' she said. 'We're taking a leap of faith but at least we're all holding hands and walking in the same direction.'

Dolan said he still isn't sure how the economics will pencil out in the end but thinks it can work.

'In order to compete with other health clubs you need a first-class gym and a first-class pool and all the other amenities,' he said. 'But we're not intending to compete in that arena. They look at the Northeast Y and see a $7 million problem, and I look at it and see an opportunity to get the community together.'

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