Salem Landmark Changes Hands

A Salem landmark is about to have a new owner. Willamette University has agreed to purchase the YWCA building at the corner of State and Winter streets. The purchase will be finalized at the end of September.

"We believe this is a win-win," said Jim Bauer, Willamette vice president for administrative services. "The YWCA is directly across the street from our art building, consequently its location makes it an obvious addition to the campus long-range master plan. Additionally, this is an opportunity for Willamette to help a neighbor and community partner."

The University will purchase the building for $1.35 million and lease it back to the YWCA for three years. The lease agreement will be revisited in 2006.

"This agreement comes at a time when the Board of Directors is looking closely at our facility," said Carol Green, YWCA executive director. "The building is old, the utility bills substantial, and it is larger than our current needs. We are also looking at the increase in fitness facilities in Salem and asking whether we can continue to support those services."

She added, "We want to place more focus on our mission, which is to economically empower women and their families, and the elimination of racism. Our new emphasis will be on the services and programs that directly fulfill that mission."

Gwen Carr, YWCA board president added, "The decision to consider leaving this corner has been a difficult one for our board in that we have been located at this address for almost 90 years. However, one of the goals which we adopted last year as part of our strategic plan was to ensure that a facility exists that better meets our programmatic and community needs. We firmly believe that in order to continue the strong programs and services for this community for the next 90 years, it is important that we are in a position, both physically and financially, to leverage our value to the community. We welcome the opportunity to work with Willamette University as a partner in this effort."

Salem Mayor Janet Taylor was also upbeat about the Willamette-YWCA agreement. "The City of Salem has a vested interest in the continued success of both the University and the YWCA," she said. "This is a positive outcome for these two long-term neighbors and we look forward especially to assisting the YWCA with its future plans."

The YWCA was built in three sections. The Carnegie Library opened in 1913; the YWCA building in 1954; and the pool in 1964. The University has no definite plans for the building.