May 2, 2023 - Business

Johnston Y will close after selling iconic NoDa property

Johnston YMCA

Johnston YMCA

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte is selling the Johnston YMCA property to a developer, and the Y will no longer maintain a presence in NoDa as previously planned, the organization said via a statement Tuesday.

Details: The decision was made after consideration of the branch’s limitations, plus the association’s “overall financial needs.”

Why it matters: The Johnston Y is a community institution, serving for decades not only as a gym but also as a child care facility, gathering place and host of all sorts of local functions and classes. The iconic brick building was built in 1951.

  • The Johnston Y currently has about 1,500 members, according to Y spokesperson Heather Briganti.

Context: The Y has engaged with the community for the last several years to determine a plan for the redevelopment of the 5.8 acres the Johnston Y occupies on North Davidson.

  • The organization worked with broker partner CBRE to review several proposals and select a developer for the property.
  • “Our current building … does not serve current market expectations for flow and function, and has a growing list of deferred maintenance needs,” Briganti told Axios in 2021.
  • The Y had said that the NoDa area’s growth reinforced the need for the Y to maintain a presence in the neighborhood.

Yes, but: The pandemic crushed the local YMCA, one of the largest gym networks in the region. At one point, more than half of Y members had either canceled or frozen their memberships, resulting in millions in lost revenue, I reported in 2021.

  • In 2021, the YMCA of Greater Charlotte announced it received its largest gift — a “transformational” sum of $18 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

The other side: In a statement, the NoDa Neighborhood & Business Association said they’ve been “ignored and pushed aside” when it comes to collaborating with the Y on the redevelopment plans.

  • “We can only hope that whatever developer that has purchased their lot will be more willing to work with the NoDa community and will work to uphold some of the very valuable community amenities that are so desperately needed in our neighborhood,” the statement read in part.

Of note: There’s a giant willow oak in front of the Johnston Y that textile magnate Horace Johnston planted years ago, back when the building was a community center for the mill families who lived and worked in the area.

  • It’s unclear what will happen to the tree.

What’s next: The current facility will continue to operate through the end of 2023.

  • It’s unclear who the developer is or what their plans are. Briganti said they’ll make their own announcement at another time.

What they’re saying: “This decision, while in the best interest of our Y, was extremely difficult for us to make, and we know that many community members will share in our disappointment,” the Y’s statement read.


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