City eyes land for YMCA

NASHUA – City officials have proposed a land swap that would allow the YMCA to build a new facility near Stellos Stadium.

To do that, the city has worked out a partnership involving the city, the YMCA and a foundation that provides housing for disabled and elderly residents.

The concept was hinted at last month, when the YMCA of Greater Nashua gave a presentation to the board of aldermen that included its desire to open a new facility at a spot central to the city’s population.

A map showed that spot to be at about the area involved in the land swap – on Riverside Street. The area is off Exit 5 West of the F.E. Everett Turnpike and lies just north of West Hollis Street, near the stadium, the Conway Ice Arena and Nashua High School South.

Adding a YMCA to the mix would create a sports complex in an area easily accessible from the highway and close to both public high schools.In a proposed resolution, the city would trade 1.25 acres it owns just west of Pratt Homes for a .58-acre parcel Pratt owns at the northeast border of its property. The city would then lease the half-acre triangle of land to the YMCA as a site for a new facility.

Pratt Homes is run by the Letitia Pratt Foundation Inc. as housing for disabled and elderly residents.

The resolution, sponsored by Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy and Ward 5 Alderman Michael Tabacsko, had a first reading at the board of aldermen meeting Tuesday. It was assigned to the board’s infrastructure and planning and economic development committees as well as to the city planning board.

The parcel the city now owns would be of more use to Pratt than the triangle of land the foundation owns, McCarthy said.

“I would contend that the land swap is a win-win,” McCarthy said.

YMCA officials announced this fall that they would sell the current facility at 17 Prospect St. to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center for $4.5 million. The hospital plans to convert the building to medical office space.

While the closing isn’t until August, the sale means the YMCA will have no facility in the city from next summer until a new one opens in 2010.

The cash from the sale will be important for the organization’s goal of opening a more modern facility, YMCA officials said.

In the interim, members would be invited to use the YMCA facility in Merrimack.

In negotiating the land swap, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau had talked with YMCA and Pratt officials, McCarthy said.

“It just made sense to swap two pieces of land,” Lozeau said.

Details will be worked out when the resolution wends its way through the three committees. What’s uncertain is if residents who live near the area will oppose the plan. When Stellos was proposed as a stadium for high school football and other sports, some neighborhood residents opposed the plan.

“I abut that neighborhood,” Lozeau said. “I think many people have come to appreciate what Stellos offers.”

One advantage of locating the YMCA at the site is that it could host a swimming pool that could be used by city high school and other swim teams, Lozeau said.

Alderman-at-Large David Deane said the proposal looks good at face value, but he added that he wanted to hear more details. One such detail, Deane said, would be working out a pool schedule so that swim teams could use the facility at reasonable hours.