Growth spurt: Point Park University buying YMCA

Campus expansion continues with $3.8 million purchase on Boulevard of the Allies

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Point Park University was lacking a gymnasium and many other recreational offerings for its growing student body. Less than a block away, the YMCA building, with such amenities and more, was up for sale.

To many, it seemed like a deal made in real estate heaven. And yesterday, after being coy about their intentions for months, the two sides finally consummated it.

Point Park is purchasing the building from the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh for $3.8 million, the latest acquisition in a buying spree that has transformed the university into the second-largest real estate holder Downtown, behind the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The purchase was made possible by the announcement last June that the Downtown YMCA would be moving to Market Square next year as part of the conversion of the former G.C. Murphy store, which also will house shops and apartments.

"The YMCA location is a natural extension for Point Park and is well situated to help us meet the needs of our growing campus community," university President Paul Hennigan said in a statement.

It also will allow Point Park to almost instantly address one of its most glaring needs. It does not have its own gym, and recreational amenities are limited to a facility in the basement of Lawrence Hall, which has workout equipment and game tables.

The YMCA boasts an indoor swimming pool, indoor track, a gym, racquetball courts and locker rooms among its amenities. The Point Park basketball team now uses the gym and the cross-country team trains in the swimming pool. YMCA memberships also are available for purchase by students and faculty.

A panel of experts convened by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute last October urged the university to buy the property as part of its vision to transform the Wood Street-Boulevard of the Allies campus into an urban academic village.

Yesterday, Point Park wasn't saying how it intended to use its latest acquisition. Spokeswoman Mary Ellen Solomon said that will be determined by a master space plan to be announced next month.

"We're considering a variety of options and opportunities as part of the master space plan," she said.

Edward Meena, president of Point Park's faculty assembly, said the university is looking at a student activity center and a possible field house or gym at the location.

Point Park expects to close on the purchase by the middle of next month.

The YMCA will continue to use the building until the Market Square facility is finished next year. Its memberships will continue to be honored.

"There will be no disruption in membership services," said Deborah Moore Ellsworth, spokeswoman for the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

Point Park would not say what arrangement it has with the YMCA for use of the space after the closing. The $3.8 million it paid for the building is far below the assessed value of nearly $8.6 million.

Still, Eric K. Mann, president and chief executive officer of the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, said the $3.8 million constituted a "very fair sales price." He said there were three groups competing for the building, but in the end, Point Park had the "best offer," if not the highest.

"We've been good neighbors," he said. "We believe in what Point Park's plan is for the future. We were just able to come to an agreeable sales price that worked for both organizations."

Herky Pollock, executive vice president of the CB Richard Ellis real estate firm, said $3.8 million was a "fair price" for the property.

"I think it's an obvious expansion opportunity for them," he said.

Besides upgrading its recreational offerings, the purchase will enable Point Park to further expand its presence in the Wood Street-Boulevard of the Allies corridor that serves as the heart of its campus.

Overall, with the YMCA purchase added in, the university owns 15 properties Downtown and leases parts of at least four others.


Mark Belko can be reached at mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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