City of Kent to spend about $10 million to help build YMCA

The city of Kent will pay an estimated $10 million to help bring a new YMCA to the East Hill that could open in 2019.

The cost of the project is estimated at $33.6 million, with the YMCA of Greater Seattle covering $23.6 million or 71 percent of the total and the city paying the other 29 percent for infrastructure improvements, according to city documents.

Specific details about the cost, design and agreements for the project were discussed Oct. 19 at a City Council workshop led by Parks Director Julie Parascondola. The YMCA hopes to start construction in May at city park property near Southeast 248th Street and 104th Avenue Southeast.

“We are very excited about this partnership and working together to get this facility up and running,” Council President Bill Boyce said at the conclusion of the workshop. “It’s going to be a great asset to the community.”

The YMCA, through private fundraising, will pay for the 50,000-square-foot facility to be built in the middle of the Morrill Meadows Park. The facility will include a state-of-the-art aquatics center, a gym, wellness and group exercise classes, indoor and outdoor recreation space within the park and dedicated community gathering spaces.

The city will pay for an estimated $6.5 million of improvements and changes at Morrill Meadows Park and the nearby East Hill Park (including a new dog park) as well as a new 250-spot parking lot. The city also will pay about $2 million for frontage improvements along Southeast 248th Street – a three-lane road, new sidewalks and bike lanes and moving the overhead utilities underground.

Kent will spend another $1.5 million to buy replacement park property for the land lost due to the new YMCA. The park property had restrictions because portions of the land were acquired with grant funds through the state Recreation and Conservation Office and funds through King County’s 1989 open space bonds.

Parascondola said because of ongoing property negotiations she couldn’t reveal where the city will buy replacement land, but city staff is looking at about 5 acres total at two parcels on the East Hill adjacent to current city parks.

Mayor Suzette Cooke proposed in her 2018 budget adjustment last month how the city can pay for the $10 million projects. The council will consider the proposal next month during budget talks.

Cooke proposed using $3.7 million from the parks capital fund (with money raised from the real estate excise tax each time a property is sold), $1.5 million from the sale of the Kent Highlands property on the West Hill, $1 million from the parks capital budget for 2017-2o18, $1.2 million in general fund reserves, $1 million from the street operating fund, $600,000 from the street drainage fund and she’s counting on a $1 million state grant.

YMCA design changes

As far as the design and features of the facility, rising construction costs has caused the YMCA to scale back the size to 50,000 square feet from 55,000 square feet, Parascondola said.

“The Y is doing everything they can to maintain their original design but they are on a fixed budget,” Parascondola said. “Construction costs are rising from $350 a square foot to $500 a square foot.”

She said if costs continue to go up, the facility might have a half gym rather than a full-sized one.

“They are looking at two options on the gym, ideally we would love a full gym,” she said. “If pricing continues to escalate, the plan is to eliminate one half of the gym. That’s not ideal and it’s not firm yet, but it (depends) on bids.”

The swimming pool and gym will be on the first floor. The second floor will include cardio and weight lifting equipment, a running track that goes around the gym and exercise studios.

YMCA officials expect to have 11,000 members at the new facility and another 11,000 people will be served by programs that reach out to the community, including programs accessible to people regardless of their income.

The pool at the YMCA will replace the city’s aging Kent Meridian Pool next to Kent-Meridian High School.

Complex agreements

The council also heard at its workshop about the complicated agreements proposed between the city and the YMCA. The two sides agreed to use just one contractor, so the YMCA will oversee the entire project, including street frontage work and park improvements. Both sides also are looking to do a lease-leaseback agreement.

“The Y will lease property back to city, and at the end of the lease the city will get back the park property,” City Attorney Tom Brubaker said. “There is also an option for early buyout if you don’t want to spread the costs out over 20 years or so.

“It’s the only way we can do it under state law. We sell them their portion, we lease them the remainder of the park and then once it’s built, we lease it back. The Y is fully responsible for any costs overruns and takes on all liability.”

The amount of the lease payments will be determined when the city’s final costs are determined to pay for park and frontage improvements.

City staff hopes to have all of the agreements ready to approve at the Dec. 12 council meeting.

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