Downtown Vancouver YMCA receives surprise $14.6-million cheque from Concert partners

June 18, 2012

Vancouver Sun, June 14, 2012. By Neal Hall 

VANCOUVER -- YMCA officials expected $1-million to $2-million out of a profit-sharing deal with the company that built a 42-storey condominium highrise on the YMCA’s Burrard Street property.

But on Thursday, Concert Properties chairman David Podmore handed over a whopping $14.6-million cheque to Greater Vancouver YMCA president Steve Butz, board chair Mary Beck and retired YMCA president Bill Stewart.

Stewart, who was involved in the negotiations for the project, did a happy dance as he saw the amount.

“It’s going to be put to good use for the next generation,” he said during a ceremony Thursday.

“Whatever you did, you did it marvellously,” Stewart told Podmore.

Commenting shortly before handing over the cheque, Podmore said: “The agreement was to compensate them if there was a stronger market.

“I think they’ll be surprised.”

The 256-unit Patina tower, now sold out, was just part of a major redevelopment of the Burrard Street site, which also included the renovation and expansion of the 1941 YMCA building.

Part of the heritage building was retained, while a new six-storey 92,000-square-foot addition, now called the Robert Lee YMCA, was built onto it.

Concert contributed money toward the new Y for the right to build the Patina project, but held back 22 suites from sale last year, which now are all sold and fetched higher prices than expected, Podmore said.

“The project is a really great example of good partnering,” he said.

Beck called the partnership with Concert “intricate, intensive and unique.”

She said the new facility now allows almost 11,000 people of all ages and income levels to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

Since opening in May 2010 after a $67-million renovation, Vancouver’s downtown YMCA now boasts 10,500 members, up dramatically from the low of about 1,700 before it closed for a three-year facelift and addition, which blends the old and new.

The renovations were made possible after an extensive fundraising campaign that brought million-dollar donations from both individuals and corporations.

One of the donors was the new YMCA’s namesake, Robert Lee, a top Vancouver real estate developer who has been a Y member for 50 years, dating back to when he took swimming lessons at the Y while in school.

Lee, now in his late 70s, co-founded the Wall Financial Corp. and the Prospero Group. He said earlier he prefers working out at the YMCA, even though he is a member of  the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club, the Hollyburn Country Club and the Vancouver Club.

“You’re just like the average guy there,” he said  about the downtown Vancouver YMCA when it reopened.

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