Friday, September 29, 2023 Sep 29, 2023
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Commercial Real Estate

How Long Before the T. Boone YMCA Becomes a Parking Lot?

The building has sold. I bet I know who bought it.
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Tim Headington owns everything in blue. Yellow is the YMCA.

The Morning News over the weekend broke the news that downtown Dallas’ T. Boone Pickens YMCA has sold. The buyer in the controversial transaction has yet to reveal himself, but the property was estimated to be worth $12 million. Coppell-based YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas said the building had to be sold because it requires too many costly repairs. Come November 25, the place will close, and the Y, which has had a presence in downtown Dallas since 1885, will focus its energy more on “metropolitan” than on “Dallas.”

Here we will be, the ninth-largest city in the country, and we won’t have a proper gym in our downtown business district. Forget the swimming lessons and the after-school programs and the summer camps that the downtown Y has provided. I’m talking about a place with basketball and racquet courts. A place where you can just grab a shower in the morning if you ride a bicycle to work. And, oh yeah, a nonprofit that charges a sliding-scale membership so that folks from different socioeconomic backgrounds can mix it up and understand each other a little better.

The shuttering of the Y is personal to me. I’ve been waiting for the insane summer temps to drop so I can get back to peddling to work from East Dallas a couple times a week. I’ve played ball long enough in the lunchtime game at the Y that I earned a nickname at one point with the younger players. (It wasn’t Big Daddy Sir Luka-like, but it should have been.)

I’ll probably drop my Y membership. I also work out and sometimes run in a game at the Lakewood Y (with its short court), but I don’t use it often enough to justify the full-price monthly fee. I’m sure they’ll be devastated to hear this.

What will downtown be left with, gym-wise? I asked DDI to make sure I wasn’t overlooking something. Nope, I was right. Downtown will have exactly two public gyms: Cowboys Fit and Trophy Fitness. Two gyms, people!

Downtowns all across the country are suffering from WFH-induced office vacancy. In Dallas, we’re running about 30 percent empty. That means fewer people eating lunch downtown, fewer downtown businesses able to sustain themselves, less sales and property tax revenue flowing to the city. I know one gym can’t fix that, but closing downtown’s best, most active gym certainly doesn’t help.

What comes next? I bet it’s a parking lot.

Through various entities, the billionaire Tim Headington controls everything you see outlined in blue in the above image. Headington is an interesting guy. He doesn’t do many interviews. His company website consists solely of a “splash” page that has a phone number on it. I’ve called that number and left a voicemail and I’ve emailed him directly. No response yet. But you can see what he’s doing with the acres he controls near the Y (which I assume he bought). He’s happy to contribute to our heat island, striping his asphalt and concrete with parking spaces, waiting for the market to catch up with his deep pockets.

I might be wrong. Jonas Woods or the Perots might be the real Y buyer. (A hundred bucks right now says they aren’t.) Headington might be the buyer but have plans to renovate the Y and make it an anchor to his development in that corner of downtown. I might regain the form and fitness I had 20 years ago and once again dominate a basketball court like I did that one time I played pickup with Deion Sanders.

Or I might just wind up playing pickleball with other fiftysomethings and working more from home.

Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story included a line about Steve Brown not breaking the story about the sale. Brown, in fact, did break the story.

Author

Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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