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Downtown YMCA
Sarasota Friday, Sep. 9, 2016 5 years ago

Downtown YMCA to close in October

The YMCA announced plans to close its Babe Weiller Branch, located on Main Street, and consolidate the operations at another location just southeast of downtown.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

The Sarasota YMCA will close its downtown Babe Weiller Branch on Oct. 7, the organization announced today.

The YMCA will consolidate its services at that facility, located in Main Plaza at 1991 Main St., with its Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Branch. That branch is located at 1075 S. Euclid Ave., 1.8 miles from the downtown facility.

A statement on the YMCA website attributes the decision to the cost of renting space in the downtown building. The post also cites declining membership rates as a contributing factor. The YMCA’s lease was scheduled to expire Oct. 31.

“Over the last several years, we have worked tirelessly to negotiate favorable rental rates with the landlords, identify funding for the required tenant improvements and locate alternative space,” the statement says. “Unfortunately, we have not been successful in these endeavors.”

In November, a trio of Sarasota entrepreneurs purchased the 8.6-acre Main Plaza property for $18.1 million. The group, comprised of Eric Baird, Jesse Biter and David Chessler, announced its intent to aggressively redevelop the property, though no detailed plans have emerged since.

Biter said he was sad to lose the YMCA as a tenant and attributed the move to unfortunate timing. He said the ownership group is still considering multiple options for the future of Main Plaza, and the YMCA was not in a position to wait for a decision to be made.

He said he expects a gym to eventually occupy space in the property in the future. Still, there’s no hard timeline for the redevelopment of Main Plaza, which also houses the Hollywood 20 movie theater. 

“We’re not in a rush,” Biter said. “We want to do it right, and we’ve got a lot of good ideas.”

In a release, the YMCA said it will offer instructors at the downtown branch the opportunity to teach at the Euclid Avenue location, and some classes will transfer to the new facility.

“We know that the mission work that the members participate in will continue in the downtown and surrounding communities,” interim Sarasota YMCA CEO Steve Bourne said in the release. “We would like to thank our downtown partners and friends for being supportive of the YMCA for over 70 years and the Babe Weiller branch for the past 13 years.”

The Berlin Branch will host a welcome breakfast at 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 10, and a welcome luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11. The YMCA directed anyone with questions regarding the changes to visit the Babe Weiller Membership Desk or contact 366-6778.

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