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Newspaper: BEACON-NEWS Date: 05/21/2006 Day of Week: Sunday Edition: BEACON_NEWS Section: MAIN Page: A1 Headline: When a plan is just a plan Byline: By David Garbe Credit: staff writer AURORA - When the downtown redevelopment roadmap now on its way through the city approval process made its first public appearance last week, the phones at the YWCA started ringing immediately. The redevelopment vision - essentially a map of the area showing properties with strong redevelopment potential - shows the YWCA’s riverfront site being transformed someday into a hotel and conference center. Although the plan is a guideline rather than a mandate, those who didn't read the small print assumed the YWCA had already sold its property on North River Street and would soon be closed. And so they called en masse. No, the YWCA isn't going anywhere, YW board President Diane Beukelman told them. Nor will it be going anywhere anytime soon. "No one has even come to us with any concrete plans or offers," she said, and the YWCA is certainly not actively trying to sell. In other words, the rumors of the YWCA’s demolition have been greatly exaggerated. Evolving emphasis That said, Beukelman acknowledged that YWCA leaders are beginning to think seriously about what kind of organization they want to be in the future. Last month, the YWCA decided to close its pool, largely because newer swimming facilities were drawing away customers and causing the YWCA to operate the pool at a loss. At the same time, the YWCA’s core mission has shifted away from recreation to tackling bigger social issues like providing affordable child care and, of course, the group's new national motto: "Eliminating racism, empowering women." Although it still conducts fitness programs, most of the YWCA’s 2,000 members are children involved in its day care or after-school programs. As the YWCA operations continue to evolve, Beukelman said the idea of moving to a new facility in Aurora is definitely not out of the question, especially if the existing property can fetch a hefty price in its now-gentrifying neighborhood. "We realize like everyone else that downtown Aurora does seem to be on the economic move," Beukelman said. "There could be (financial) opportunity for us because of our location." Looking to future In 2002, the YWCA was engaged in negotiations with Hollywood Casino-Aurora, which wanted to buy the YWCA’s property for additional parking and a possible hotel. The casino already has parking and an entranceway adjacent to the YWCA site. Before the two parties ever came close to making a deal for the hotel, talks ended when the casino was first sold to its current owner, Penn National Gaming, and then saw its revenue drop because of a large gambling tax increase by the state. That tax hike was eliminated last year, but negotiations with the YWCA never resumed, Beukelman said. Hollywood Casino officials could not be reached for comment. Whatever offers the future might bring, Beukelman said the YWCA won't be making any major decisions until it has a clear sense of its own goals. This summer, the YWCA’s leadership is planning to bring in consultants from the national headquarters to help identify the local agency's strengths and to plot a course for meeting the Aurora community's new needs in the future. The corporate world would call it a long-term business plan; YWCA calls it their Capacity Building Program. It starts with consultants surveying about two dozen leaders in the local YWCA organization for their input on the group's strengths, its weaknesses and its potential to serve a changing community. The process should be finished by the end of the summer, Beukelman said, and take two or three months to complete.
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