Leaders of the Boston YMCA announced this week they plan to sell the Constitution Inn at the Navy Yard, but will continue to operate the Charlestown YMCA there for the next three or four years while they look for a new, permanent location in the Town.
The move has come as a surprise to many in the Town, and many are torn over the fact that the sale of the Inn will also result in the relocation of the Dennis McLaughlin House – a state-funded shelter program for 10 families at the Inn and YMCA.
James Morton, YMCA of Greater Boston CEO, said the organization did an assessment last year that they dubbed the ‘Year of Refinement.’ That process answered questions about what they do well and what they could improve upon. One thing they came to realize, he said, is that operating the Inn is not in their wheelhouse.
“We came to the conclusion that owning and managing an Inn was not consistent with our expertise,” he said. “We are in the process of selling the Constitution Inn. However, we want to be explicit in that we are in the early stages of looking at putting a full-service YMCA in Charlestown. We are committed to that. We would sell the Constitution Inn with right to have the existing health and wellness center there for a period of three or four years. During that time, our goal is to build another full-service YMCA in Charlestown at one of the redevelopment efforts going on in Charlestown.
“Our goal is to build a larger YMCA to serve more members of the community,” he concluded.
The property has been put on the market with broker Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) and is being promoted as an “opportunity to reposition a 147-room independent hotel in Boston’s historic Charlestown neighborhood.”
“We are absolutely excited about what will come of this,” said Morton. “We think there will be a lot of interest from a number of sectors. There may be interest from larger hotels or some of the major hospitals looking for guest rooms for patients. It might be attractive to a local university looking for housing for students. We think there are lots of great options for the space.”
Another key piece of the puzzle is the Dennis McLaughlin House, a treasured resource for 10 families that is named after a prominent Charlestown family. The House is part of the Families in Transition state program, and it works in tandem with 22 families that live at the YMCA Huntington Avenue headquarters. Morton said they plan to move the 10 families in Charlestown to the Huntington Avenue facility within the next 45 days, making a total of 32 families in one location under the same program.
“We have elected to re-locate the McLaughlin House program to Huntington Avenue and keep all the families together in one place at Huntington Avenue,” he said. “They will have access to more services and resources that are not as easily accessible in Charlestown…We need to keep those families together because they’re a part of a special conglomerate shelter program.”
He said the Dennis McLaughlin House name would follow those 10 families to Huntington Avenue, where the sign and McLaughlin name will carry on. A side benefit occurring as part of the sale and move is that 10 additional families from the Huntington Avenue facility will be moving from the shelter to new apartments in a partnership with Winn Development.
Beyond that, Morton said they are excited, and particularly because they believe the future of the YMCA in Charlestown is very bright.
“Our intent is to sell the property subject to a lease that will allow us to continue to serve the 4,200 members of the Y and the Charlestown community for the next three or four years while we are designing a new full-service YMCA at another location in Charlestown,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everyone and were’ really excited about it.”
He said they were focusing on the families and housing first, and they will now consult with the City, the community and the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), which has the underlying lease on the property.