YMCA eyeing old call center

The call center on Arsenal Street that previously housed Concentrix, pictured above in July, is being considered as a possible new home for the Watertown YMCA’s new community center. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times.

WATERTOWN — The Watertown YMCA is eyeing a portion of the former home of the Concentrix call center as a possible location for its new community center.

The former call center on Arsenal Street is one location the organization has considered to house its $16 million aquatics, racquet sport and wellness center, said YMCA CEO Denise K. Young. If the organization decides to strike a deal with the facility’s owner, the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, it would purchase 55,000 square feet of the 76,000-square-foot space, particularly on the side facing Arsenal Street.

Mrs. Young has toured the building a couple of times, and said she liked the size of it, the abundance of parking and the ability to bring new life to a vacant facility in downtown.

“We believe it’s a possibility,” she said, adding that the organization must still determine whether it would be feasible.

Mrs. Young and Kevin J. Jordan, who serves on the YMCA’s board of directors, met with JCIDA officials Thursday morning and discussed a prospective deal in a more than hour-long executive session.

Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the sister agency, the Jefferson County Local Development Corp., said both organizations have no conclusive agreement, but they discussed possible purchase price figures, which he didn’t disclose, and the preliminary implications the community center would have for the space and downtown. Both groups “don’t have anything firmed up,” Mr. Alexander said.

The JCLDC’s building and grounds committee will further evaluate the working proposals discussed during the executive session, Mr. Alexander said.

“Obviously, our board is extremely supportive of the Y’s attempt to enhance activities within the city. The Y is a community asset we strongly support,” he said.

The community center, whether the YMCA builds it in the former home of Concentrix or otherwise, will consist of a six-lane lap pool, a separate full-size recreational pool, a full-service wellness center, an arts/multipurpose room, two indoor tennis courts and a running/walking track.

The project has received $2.133 million from the state’s Consolidated Funding Application program.

“We have a vision for an amazing community center in downtown,” Mrs. Young said.

The YMCA previously considered locating its community center in the former Medical Arts Building on Clinton Street, but decided against it after discovering the property would disqualify it from two important funding sources: the federal Opportunity Zones and the New Market tax credit programs. Both involve providing tax incentives for projects in low-income urban and renewal communities.

Under the Opportunities Zone program, YMCA officials would try to attract investors who would make long-term investments into new Opportunity Zone funds, which would provide equity to the project in exchange for tax breaks and eliminate future capital gains. The New Market Tax Credits program also encourages private investment in low-income communities.

The former Medical Arts Building is neither located in the Opportunity Zone boundary nor a highly distressed area, which are requirements for the tax credits.

There was talk of the YMCA considering the old Mercy Hospital site as a possible home for its community center.

When asked about the site, Mrs. Young said “It’s a site that would be large enough. I don’t think we’re ruling anything out that would be large enough.”

Concentrix, Fremont, Calif., closed its Watertown office this summer, a move that displaced about 250 workers.

It took over the former Convergys operations in the one-time F.W. Woolworth department store after its parent company, Synnex Corp., purchased Convergys and its 40 operations in October. When the company took over Convergys, it had about 600 employees in the city, but it began laying off workers months later.

Mr. Alexander said he has been in discussions with other, unidentified “community organizations” that expressed interest in the former call center. All options, including selling all or part of the space or leasing all or part of the space, remain on the table, he said.

“What we’re not flexible about is making sure ... however the building is utilized is beneficial to the community,” he said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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