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Panel to Study Adding YMCA for Center : Cerritos: Backers of the proposal want the city to sell or lease the land at the Towne Center at a nominal price. The City Council committee will weigh facility benefits.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The City Council has moved a step closer to setting aside land in the Towne Center redevelopment area for a YMCA that would include a day-care center and an executive gym, features that could lure more corporate tenants.

Councilman Paul W. Bowlen and other backers of the proposal want the city to sell or lease land to the YMCA at a nominal price. Under state law, a city cannot give away land but can sell or lease a parcel for as little as $1.

A committee established Wednesday night by the council will consider what type of programs a Y would offer, whether the Y would be beneficial to residents and whether boosters could raise the $5 million to $7 million needed for construction. The panel will also consider which parcel in the 125-acre Towne Center would be the most appropriate for the facility.

“The charter of the committee is to put some meat on the bones of the idea and come up with specifics,” said Kenneth J. Bodger, who heads Friends of the Y, an ad hoc group formed last year to bring a YMCA to Cerritos.

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Towne Center is alongside the Artesia Freeway at the Bloomfield and Shoemaker avenue off-ramps. Two office buildings, a new hotel and the city’s Community Arts Center, still under construction, are now at the center.

Under terms of the agreement with Transpacific Development Co., which has been the sole developer for Towne Center, there will eventually be close to two dozen office buildings.

The committee, which is supposed to report back to the council within 90 days, will include Councilmen Bowlen and Sherman Kappe, city staff members and representatives from the YMCA and Friends of the Y.

Bowlen said after Wednesday night’s meeting that he is delighted with the reception that the proposal is receiving from council members.

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“I think they realize that there isn’t anything else available,” he said. “There’s no land.”

A report prepared by city staff members cited six vacant areas in Cerritos large enough to accommodate a YMCA. But except for the Towne Center, the sites are all in private hands or owned by school districts that are unlikely to sell at a discounted price, Bowlen said.

It was the second report prepared by the city administration on the issue. The first, sent last month to the council by City Manager Gaylord F. Knapp, was highly critical of the Towne Center idea. Knapp said the city would lose $34.3 million to $42.9 million in revenue in the next 50 years if it set aside a parcel at a discounted price for a nonprofit organization.

After receiving Knapp’s report, the council ordered its staff to prepare another report that included a review of alternate sites.

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Other council members are not as openly committed as Bowlen to putting the Y in Towne Center, but most have expressed guarded support, saying they would probably vote for the Y if it could be demonstrated that it would benefit the city.

Only Councilman Daniel Wong voted against establishing the Y panel. While he would welcome a Y in Cerritos, Wong said, he does not believe that the city should supply land for it.

One of the reasons the council may be open to the idea of a Y on prime commercial land is that development there has proceeded at a slow pace. Office buildings in the Southland are overbuilt, with vacancy rates running at up to 20%. Developments that offer such amenities as child care and an executive gym may have a competitive edge.

In Long Beach, developers of the World Trade Center put a child-care center inside the building as a way of luring tenants.

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Also, a marketing report discussed by the council Wednesday night said the city probably cannot count on having a successful upscale mall in Towne Center. It cited a poor retail climate and that surrounding residential areas do not have enough high-income families to support such department stores as Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus.

Also, some council members such as Bowlen have expressed disillusionment with the way that some city revenues and some Towne Center land have been used. Though he has supported the Community Arts Center so far, Bowlen has expressed unhappiness that the center is costing the city about $46 million.

Explaining his support for a Y in Towne Center, Bowlen said: “I’m not that enamored with just building monuments in the city. I’m interested in filling some of the needs too.”


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