YMCA May Leave Jackson, Hinds After Millions in Loans | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

YMCA May Leave Jackson, Hinds After Millions in Loans

The Jackson Metropolitan YMCA stands at 800 East River Place and is now for sale. The downtown location and Clinton YMCA were listed for sale in March due to heavy debt. The YMCA took out $7 million in loans to open the Flowood Y.

The Jackson Metropolitan YMCA stands at 800 East River Place and is now for sale. The downtown location and Clinton YMCA were listed for sale in March due to heavy debt. The YMCA took out $7 million in loans to open the Flowood Y. Photo by Arielle Dreher.

— The Metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi—the state's branch of what the national Y calls the "nation's leading nonprofit"—has put both the downtown Jackson and Clinton locations up for sale. The rationale is shrinking profits and increasing debt after taking out millions in loans, including $7 million to build the Flowood location.

The Mississippi YMCA is attributing the move on advice from a New York bank, with an uncertain name and that cannot be reached to comment on the situation.

The vital operations of those two YMCAs, including programs for children and the needy, may soon leave Hinds County altogether, relocating to the suburban Flowood Family YMCA or the YMCA Reservoir. The Downtown YMCA is Jackson's only remaining location of the "Young Men's Christian Association," which George Williams founded in 1844 as an urban refuge for young men living in inner-city London.

The Greater Jackson Chamber still lists the YMCA of Metropolitan Jackson, a name that the YMCA does not seem to be using any longer. Neither name is registered with the secretary of state.

Director of Development Janet Reihle said the YMCA is in direct contact with a so-far-unconfirmed bank that recommended the two properties be sold to cut back on costs and reduce debt. She said the decision was a directive from the lenders, and the YMCA did not make the decision.

"This just means that they are listed," Reihle said. "If the buildings are sold, we have not taken away the possibility that the buyers could be someone who wants to see a Y there."

In 1998, Metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi took out a $1-million loan for the Reservoir YMCA, which started the group on the path of several more loans, Reihle said. To date, the Metropolitan YMCAs of Mississippi have taken out more than $12 million in loans.

The Clarion-Ledger reported the name of the bank as "Parkstone Properties" based in New York, but that is not the registered name of a bank there. Reihle also shared this information with the Jackson Free Press, but said she was unsure of the name and said dealings are between the board of directors and the bank.

As of July 25, Reihle was still unsure of the bank's correct name. An investment company, Parkstone Capital, is the only New York-based bank the Jackson Free Press found, but the group said it is unable to comment until next week, as the core member is out of town.

Speed Commercial Real Estate President Jeff Speed confirmed his company listed both the Clinton and Jackson YMCA properties for sale in March 2017. The properties are listed for $1,600,000 each on Loopnet.com. The properties have yet to sell. Speed could not confirm the bank associated with the YMCA's loan.

Currently, YMCA of Mississippi is $9 million in debt from years of taking out hefty loans from the still-unconfirmed bank. The YMCA took out a nearly $7-million loan to build the Flowood YMCA facility in 2003. The YMCA took out a more than $3-million loan to build the Clinton YCMA in 2005.

In 2002, a $1,200,000 loan went toward repairs for the downtown YMCA. Additionally, the YMCA took out a line of credit of $700,400.

"We have not been able to reinvest in any of our facilities," Reihle said about the YMCA's large debt cloud. "That causes just a loss financially to continue. That's not a healthy path for us to go down."

Many members of the YMCA of Mississippi Board of Directors live in or own businesses in cities outside of Jackson.

"We are hopeful that these conversations happening right now really get a chance for the community to have some input into what the Y is doing and what they would want to see the Y doing," Reihle told the Jackson Free Press.

She said community and member meetings will be held to discuss the future of YMCA programs and to listen to community concerns. No meeting has been scheduled, yet.

"We are still hopeful that the conversations that are happening now will give us a great direction and healthy direction," Reihle said.

The JFP reached out to nearly all members of the YMCA Mississippi Board of Directors with no responses as of press time. Those members include Stacy Crain, Amanda Fontaine, Ken Hodges, Mark Hosemann, Sam Riden, Witt Ruffin, Bryan Lagg, Brad Wilkinson and Worth Thomas.

Neither location has closed its doors, but the goal of the listing is to sell, Reihle said. As for the YMCA programs at the locations including the I.S. Sanders early-learning Child Enrichment Center in Jackson, she said the YMCA wants to move programs to Flowood Family YMCA or YMCA Reservoir. The downtown YMCA is nearly eight miles from the closest alternative, Flowood Family YMCA. The YMCA-Clinton is about 20 miles from Flowood.

"We can come back into these communities stronger and able to make a bigger impact ourselves financially instead of just assuming more debt," Reihle said about the pending moves.

Membership Director Sara Brantley declined to comment on programs and directed the JFP to Reihle. By press time, Executive Director Rennie Cluver could not be reached for comment.

Reihle said the choice of the lenders to list the downtown and Clinton locations derived from the financial instability of the locations. "They (Flowood and Reservoir facilities) have actually been able to help us sustain the Clinton and downtown YMCA facility and operations for a while now," she told the Jackson Free Press.

Both a YMCA on Farish Street and another at Deville Plaza in north Jackson have closed in recent years. When the Deville location shut down, the organization revamped the downtown location, turning the basketball court into a larger work-out and weight room. The Downtown YMCA loses approximately $200,000 a year through being in operation, Reihle said. Since 2004, that Y has lost more than $1 million in revenue, Reihle said.

"We've been trying to reinvest and make sure we operate that facility as long as possible," Reihle said. "Our lenders have said it is not financially feasible for us to pay off the debt and still sustain that loss."

The Clinton YMCA loses about $100,000 a year and lost about $1 million in operations since 2004, much like Jackson, Reihle said.

Reihle said the ultimate goal for the YMCA right now is to eliminate some of its debt. "There still a lot of opportunity for the Y to have a footprint (in the Jackson metro)," she said. "We just don't know what that will be right now."

The YMCA corporate office directed the Jackson Free Press to Reihle about questions regarding the loan.

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