YMCA plans to buy Trinity Lutheran property

The White Rock YMCA has submitted a letter of intent to buy the Trinity Lutheran property on Gaston at Loving, with plans to build a new Y there.

The current YMCA building on Gaston is under contract to an undisclosed buyer, says Derek Smith, the neighborhood YMCA’s executive director.

The Trinity Lutheran property has been on the market since the church closed in 2006. Several developers have pitched redevelopment since then. Those included a nursing home, a dense residential development and a green-focused residential development.

All of those ideas have met with resistance from neighbors concerned with increased traffic and how such projects could affect their property values.

Derek Smith says he has been meeting with neighbors for the past week, and for the most part, “folks really seem to be in favor of this.” About 180 of the YMCA’s 1,600 family and single memberships belong to residents in the neighborhood adjacent to the church property, Smith says.

The 3.25-acre property is listed at $2.1 million, and plans for a new Y are in the early planning stages. Smith couldn’t say how much a new building would cost or how big it would be. That will depend on how much money the Y’s board and partners wish to raise.

The Y expects to submit zoning changes via a Planned Development District proposal to the Plan Commission no later than Monday. The changes include a parking variance that would allow about 115 parking spaces. The current Y comprises about 42,000 square feet. A building that size is required to have more than 200 parking spaces under city zoning regulations, but Smith says they actually use far fewer.

If the Y’s plan for the former church property should fall through, it can get out of its contract with the buyer, which is expected to be final in the next three months. While the building project is underway, the Y would lease back its current building at virtually no cost. Smith says the same buyer also is negotiating with the owner of the Far West Club and OK Sports Bar, which has been under fire from neighbors and the TABC, to buy its space as well. The YMCA owns its part of the building outright, and the owner of Far West owns the other portion.

The YMCA would like to get its case before the Plan Commission in April, and if all goes as planned, they would build in 2014.

So far, there are few details to the plan, but Craig Reynolds, the Lakewood resident who is overseeing the renovations at Woodrow Wilson High School, is the architect. The White Rock YMCA has been in three locations since the 1950s, but it has never had its own custom-built space.

“We want to build something that’s going to fit into East Dallas,” Smith says.

The new Y building would be closer to Gaston than the current church building, he says, but the plan is to preserve the park-like ambiance of the lot. He wants it to fit in with the neighborhood and offer a “front yard” space where neighbors could picnic or hang out.

“We don’t want it to feel very commercial right there on Gaston,” he says.

The YMCA’s next neighborhood meeting is with the Lakewood Hills Neighborhood Association on Tuesday, March 20.

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