Jeremy's Notebook

YMCA Statement

March 21, 2013

ymcaStatement from YMCA President Steve Williams on Negotiations for Maritime Y:

“For the past month, the Y has tried to navigate the process of negotiating a sublease for a parcel on the Community Maritime Park. Based on two city council meetings, one CMPA Audit and Operations meeting, two CMPA meetings and multiple meetings with City Administration, it’s clear to us that the process is broken, if one exists at all.
We would like to thank the City Council for their vote of support, but we are saddened that the CMPA failed to follow their directive, and that our City government as a whole is unable to establish a workable negotiation process.  This not only deters future investment at Maritime Park but also results in the loss of expanded community services, youth programming, construction jobs, and accessible health care options for downtown Pensacola through a new Maritime Y.
Based on the confusion between the City Administration, the city council and CMPA regarding their respective authority to negotiate a SubLease Agreement at Maritime Park, the Executive Committee is recommending to the Board of Directors that we withdraw from any further negotiations with these entities for construction of a new Maritime Y. 
A final decision will be made at the YMCA’s board of directors meeting Monday, March 25, 2013.”

                                                                                 – Steve Williams, President – Board of Directors, Northwest Florida YMCA

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  • Real deal March 23, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Everybody step back, chill out and let the experts develop a plan for the undeveloped CMP property. Until that plan is presented to the Mayor, Council and CMPA board there should be no consideration of piecemeal development proposals. Stop the insanity and devote the necessary resources to strategically maximize the economic impact of the remaining land in the CMP as well as other city-owned downtown parcels. Priority one should be to raise the tax base of the city. If we fail to do that we are looking at a huge hike in property taxes to fill the budget gap that will hit in 2014. Do you really want that?

  • Art Noto March 22, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Do we all collectively laugh now or cry? The CMPA and/or the City have completely destoryed any chance this land will ever be developed in any form even slighly resembling the plan approved by the voters. UWF was run off Parcel 8 and as a result pulled out of the park entirely. Now the YMCA has suffered the same fate.

    What are they holding out for? Does the CMPA really think some well funded fat cat of a huge business entity will decide to build their new international headquarters in Pensacola but only if they get Parcel 8 at the Park? Dream on.

  • Leroy Carter March 22, 2013 at 6:04 am

    I can think of a number of locations downtown that would be better for the youth that the Y seems so intent on promoting. The park does not have the necessary parking and is not accessable for handicaped persons. I drove thru the park a few weeks ago after my wife had knee replacement, we wanted to walk down to the water and the ampitheater, no parking nearby to do either. I voted against the park and to this day do not support it. I fully expect my property taxes to increase to support it in the future. It appears the Y moving is the desire of a few downtown crowd people. Move it somewhere it can be used by the majority.

  • Ames March 22, 2013 at 2:36 am

    Ya know, the pearl-clutching Southern drama and orchestrated public fainting serves as fair warning to any entity exploring possible site relocation in the Panhandle. Fair enough, I suppose. There is no professional business atmosphere in Pensacola, just the on-going hissy-fit competitions. Let them take their balls and go home.

  • CJ Lewis March 22, 2013 at 12:56 am

    The non-dynamic duo of Mayor Ashton Hayward and CMPA Chairman Collier Merrill has squandered away two years creating this perceived crisis. However, whatever is ultimately built on Parcel 8, and the seven other ground parcels of the Community Maritime Park, may be there for hundreds of years. We should be in no rush to screw it up.

    We now need to keep our powder dry and patiently wait for the results of the CBRE Group study. In a few months, the CMPA, under new leadership, can formulate a unified plan for a coherent project that brings as many tourists as possible to downtown Pensacola. The goal is to keep tourists here – in Pensacola Proper – for so long as they have cash to spend and their credit cards hold out. Too bad if this plan frustrates hoteliers and restaurateurs at Pensacola Beach.

    We do not need to piecemeal this project into mediocrity. The Community Maritime Park is intended as bait. The prize is tourists. Nobody “normal” goes on vacation to go to the YMCA. The place should be kept swarming with tourists, and some locals. Ideally, the Community Maritime Park should be tied in with UWF’s Cultural Tourism Initiative and Mark Taylor’s USS Kitty Hawk idea over at Commendencia Slip.

    The Downtown Crowd does not need a waterfront view to get hot and sweaty. Does Charleston have a YMCA on its waterfront? No. Does Savannah? No. Does Sarasota? No. Does St. Petersburg? No. Very few city voters use the YMCA or need the YMCA. Less expensive alternatives are plentiful. The YMCA does good work for which it receives municipal services for free. The YMCA should someday thank city taxpayers for all we do at our expense for the YMCA and its dues-paying members.

    Anyone care that the total public debt for the Community Maritime Park we see today – and our inept City Council borrowed far more than promised to build far less than promised – is $103,000,000 of which we as Federal taxpayers are having to write-off $20,000,000, City residents alone on the hook for the remaining $83,000,000?

    Every one of those $83,000,000 dollars must come from the City “and” County General Funds. City residents pay twice as City and County taxpayers. Every dollar spent at the Community Maritime Park will not be spent on some other important citywide or countywide need. The only source for the $83,000,000 is ad valorem property tax revenues. Anyone still want to put a tax-exempt anything at the Community Maritime Park or anywhere else downtown?

    The development and operation of the Community Maritime Park is governed by a Master Development Agreement and Master Lease Agreement. Both were approved by voters in 2006. Mayor Hayward and three Council members – Johnson, Terhaar and Wingate – are active realtors, Hayward working in open violation of Section 4.01.(a)(15) of the City Charter.

    Hayward and a majority of the City Council – 6 of 9 – seem to have never read and/or understood the Master Development Agreement or the Master Lease Agreement or the supporting Omnibus Amendment and Interlocal Agreement between the CRA, CMPA and City. Is it normal for a realtor not to understand real estate law? NO. Should aspiring City elected officials have to pass a critical reading, writing and thinking test? Apparently, YES.

    Moving the Downtown YMCA further downtown to a less accessible location adds little “new” to the City of Pensacola. There would be little “net” economic impact. The YMCA makes bold claims that they were going to have twice as big of a facility, have twice as many employees and offer twice as many programs. It is all pure guesswork and speculation. The YMCA was even deceptive about its number of “employees.” In legal terms, the YMCA pitch was all “puffery.” The only truthful part was the laughter last week of the Montessori children all dressed cutely in matching blue Maritime Y t-shirts with animal balloons on their heads.

    The YMCA claims that young people will not move downtown until there is a YMCA at the Community Maritime Park. Yet, pro-YMCA Diane Mack, seemingly most concerned about her theoretical financial interest in the YMCA being moved to Parcel 8, has said that three young men in her neighborhood are moving downtown. Matt “Son of John” Peacock bemoaned “Nothing to do in Pensacola!” yet he moved downtown last year. So did his parents. On the other hand, we lots of affordable houses for sale in Uptown Pensacola, the economic engine of the City of Pensacola.

    The YMCA types claim without a shred of credible or imaginary evidence that no developers will want to build anything – Hotel Project, Retail Project, Residential Project or Office Project – on the waterfront, i.e. Parcel 8. Nice try.

    One of the YMCA types said that so-called hotel experts do not think it is feasible to build a hotel at the Community Maritime Park. Who? On November 13, 2010, the PNJ reported that the Maritime Park Development Partners, LLC was within weeks of signing letters of intent for three downtown hotels, two to be on the Community Maritime Park. According to the PNJ, Quint Studer reportedly had something to do with those deals being torpedoed.

    Hayward, Merrill and the YMCA crowd may still be intent on circumventing the voter-approved process for developing and operating the Community Maritime Park “economic development” project. Kudos to the City Council members and CMPA Trustees who believe in the process of good government. Darts to the others.

    If the Studer’s dental floss thick strings-attached generosity to the YMCA only extends to a Maritime YMCA on Parcel 8, then that says something about their “strategic philanthropy” mindset, i.e. give $5,000,000 to get a lot more. Quint Studer may be a bandleader with a big following of eager groupies but this is not River City, Iowa, the fictional town in The Music Man. If the YMCA of Northwest Florida is not worthy of the Studer’s $5,000,000, please give it to Escambia County to help build a new Westside Library. We do “need” that.

  • Dale Parker March 22, 2013 at 12:40 am

    Here is what is crazy to me and it is in plain light. Ray Charles could see this mess coming;

    The YMCA met with the CMPA board who was cool to the idea of placing the YMCA on Parcel 8 for various reasons, all of them valid! No parking, funding, taxes, best use and the list goes on.

    So, when Collier Merrill, Quint Studer, The YMCA Group figured out that they got a cool reception on the idea the End Around was set. Collier and his group orchestrated a meeting with the Mayor and his lacky, I mean attorney, and in their secret meeting hammered out what is known as a ‘flawed lease’ which was later presented to the City Council.

    NOW, come the YMCA crying about a flawed, broken unworkable process for which they were a partner in the scheme to break the process thinking that they would be luckier with a weak city council of which they were right. They found a weak mayor lacking character, an attorney who will somehow decides the laws and contracts for himself in support of the Mayor whether it makes sense or not, then you have Collier Merrill who is more interested in protecting Quint Studer than the public and does not care as long as they get what they want. Once the end around team was in place they broke the process themselves.

    The YMCA has NO ONE to blame but themselves and others involved in this embarrassing mess. They should have NEVER listened to those who thought that this could be done over an expensive steak dinner at Jacksons!

  • EPenn March 22, 2013 at 12:19 am

    “that our City government as a whole is unable to establish a workable negotiation process.”

    They do have a process, you just decided along with the Mayor and CM to attempt to ursup it, as CM put it.