The New YMCA on Leggs Hill Road

February 15: YMCA tells Board groundbreaking in Spring. 80,000 square feet and $12.5 million worth of new facility on 19,5 acres off Leggs Hill Road at stake, Paul Gorman swept aside the possibility of delays by regulatory board and optimistically presented a timetable to replace the 1910 facility in Marblehead's midtown area to the Marblehead Board of Selectmen. Marblehead will provide water and sewer services even though the building is in Salem. Bernie Cummings, a neighbor was there pleading the case that the traffic will be too much for the area, now a quiet low traffic area. The Marblehead/Swampscott YMCA's memberships is 70 percent Marblehead, 20 percent Swampscott, and 10 percent Salem. [Lynn Item]

January 25: [Salem News] Marblehead Planning meets with YMCA and its plans for Leggs Hill Road area. Almost, but no cigar. The Town of Marblehead, thus far the best friend a YMCA could ever want, went to the edge but didn't jump ... yet. As usual, the issue is "traffic." The impact on Leggs Hill Road and its intersection with Tedesco Streetwas the bone of contention. The developers of the $12.5 million facility with potentially more than 2,500 members recommend a turning lane on the eastern-bound lane of Tedesco, but members of the community and the Planning Board questioned whether or not the already busy and narrow two-way street, at this intersection, could actually safely sustain a "left turn lane." The developers said, "Sure it can." The Chairman of the Planning Board David Stern is quoted as saying, "I can't imagine there's room." Narrowing the road near the entrance of Leggs Hill, installing a crosswalk, changing Londonderry into a one-way street, and adding more signs would solve all the problems, said the developers. Some of the neighbors suggested a roadway out the back of the project to Loring Avenue. The plan would require traversing wetlands owned by the Town's Water and Sewer Commission, two big problems. Ben Ackerman is quoted as asking why, "If Salem doesn't want it, why do we have to be burdened with it?" The new YMCA is scheduled to open in 2007. The Y is selling single family home lots bordering the project's footprint to help finance the construction and purchase costs. On February 3, the Planning Board is scheduled to tour the area.

January 20: YMCA meets serious concerns in Salem. The new flagship YMCA for Marblehead, Swampscott and Salem (a regional participating part of the Northshore YMCA organization) has run up against a Planning Board that worries about the extremely high costs of repairing Leggs Hill Road and the tender little concrete bridge over the Estuary, and the possibility that the new location may actually be less frequented by Salem residents. The new location is a mile from downtown Lynn. The new $12.5 million facility will require a compete redo of Leggs Hill, possibly traffic light installation, and a tough environmental challenge of protecting the fragile estuary while all of this is going on. Since the site of the Y is in Salem, the organization is looking to Salem for the majority of the work and expense. John Moustakis, Planning Board member said, "I see this as [something that is] going to be good for Marblehead and Swampscott. We have a lot of young kids in Salem, I don't know how they're going to get to this YMCA." [The Salem News] Paul Gorman, Excutive Director of the Marblehead-Swampscott YMCa said that the Salem High School swimming team will sue the new facility. Follwoing the money, Ward 7 Councilor Joe O'Keefe said, "Salem doesnpt have the money to fix the road," and called on Marblehead to do it since it is primarily a road sued by residents of that town. The attorney for the Y said it cannot afford the road repairs either. O'Keefe said Salem might "abandon" the road. But this meeting was only the first of many. Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done.

November 24. YMCA unveils its plans on Leggs Hill Road. Pools, aerobic programs, parking for 246 cars, and $10 million worth of facility. Plans are still being developed as money continues to be raised. Currently the Y with the help of prominent Marbleheaders like Bill Adams, Peter Lynch, and Eyk Van Otterloo have raised over $7 million. Problems with the neighbots still have to be resolved and no solid opening date has yet been set. will post updates and important meeting dates and times.

November 17, 2005: New 3000-Member YMCA hits a snag. With $12.5 million on the line the request for a 246-space parking lot caused a "hold" at the committee. Incidentally, the new YMCA would have a sattelite dance school for the Boston Ballet. Bernard Kummins, an abutting neighbor of the new development complained about the traffic, especially in busy times. The YMCA now owns 20 acres of woods and wetlands that run along Leggs Hill Road. Salem City Councilor Joseph O'Keefe joined the neighbor in questioning the traffic situation that will ensue as the YMCA operation reaches its full potential. The YMCA's attorney, George Atkins interrupted and argued that traffic discussions were out of place at a hearing about the parking lot, but that argument did not carry the day. Mr. Atkins also got into another argument with Salem Zoning Board of Appeals member Edward Moriarty who asserted that the two aspects (traffic and parking) should go together. "To separate traffic from parking is like trying to separate day from night,' he said, as reported in the Salem News. Moriarty also mentioned that the 246 parking spaces had been proposed by the YMCA under an ordinance aimed at asisting charitable organizations, when in fact the YMCa might be considered a recreational facility, which could double the parking requirement. The Board extended the hearing to December 1.

July 14, 2005: New Group Appears Interested in Old YMCA Property. After town meeting approved a study of the acquisition of the YMCA property at 121 Pleasant Street, adjacent to Memorial Park, by a committee for the expansion of Memorial Park, another group has come forward to vie for the land. 20-20, an organization of merchants for the revitalization of the areas commerical and public spaces, is suggesting that the property become a teen center. A teen center is a long sought after goal of many parents and town leaders. Interestingly, Mike Lane of The Recreation, Park and Forestry Department is spear-heading the effort and the Memorial Park Committee also has two members of the RPF Commission on it. So, there will be plenty of opportunity for discussion.

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