This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. August 30 with background on the former Ethan Allen Club and at 6:50 p.m. to include a statement from Champlain College.
The Greater Burlington YMCA building is listed for sale for $3.75 million, and the nonprofit organization has purchased the former Ethan Allen Club property just a half a block away on College Street, and plans to move there.
The Y closed on the property August 20 and paid Champlain College $2.5 million for the former social club. The college had purchased the club at 298 College Street in 2008 for $2.6 million with the intention of building student housing there. Neighbors voiced opposition and the plan never materialized. The structure has been used as a temporary homeless shelter, an art gallery and, at one point, as space for YMCA preschool programming.
The Y hopes to relocate to the Ethan Allen Club property, Mary Burns, president and CEO of the YMCA, confirmed to Seven Days Monday. “I don’t have a huge announcement to make other than we’re working on putting together a project on that property.”
Details will be forthcoming this fall as the Y continues fundraising and planning. No proposal has been filed with the city yet. Burns declined to say whether the Y wants to renovate the building or tear it down and start with something entirely new.
The YMCA has been searching for new digs for years, and considered various options that have not worked out, including the Burlington waterfront. “I’ve been here 29 years and shortly after I was hired there was talk of building a brand new Y," Burns said. "The Ethan Allen property has always been on a list of properties and this is something that the Y has considered for a very long time.”
Champlain College sold the property to the Y without marketing it to others at a price that is approximately $100,000 less than the college paid for it. “The Y is so very grateful to Champlain College for selling us the property,” Burns said. “They are a true community partner.”
Champlain had hoped to build apartment style units for up to 200 students at the club property. Opposition from neighbors and the prospect of a drawn-out permit process contributed to a change in plans and the sale, according to a statement released by the college Monday afternoon.
“It became clear during preliminary conversations with neighbors near the Ethan Allen Club that the permit process to build student housing at the EAC site would be more costly and time consuming — possibly three to five more years — than originally estimated,” the statement read.
Also a factor: The college has new student housing in the pipeline on the other side of downtown, meeting some of its need. Champlain won a permit battle to construct nearly 300 new beds for students at the former Eagles Club property on St. Paul and Maple Streets.
The Y, meanwhile, will celebrate next year 150 years of service to the Burlington community, Burns said. The building project is an exciting step that will help ensure the Y’s continuing success for another century, she said.
The former Ethan Allen Club property would give the Y a substantially larger lot — about 1.5 acres compared to its current 0.58-acre parcel.
The Greater Burlington YMCA has listed its building at 266 College Street with Pomerleau Real Estate. Shopping center developer and commercial real estate leader Tony Pomerleau has been a longtime supporter and donor to the YMCA.
The four-story 1932 Colonial Revival building is described in the listing as ready for redevelopment, with a downtown gateway location ripe for retrofitting into "housing, offices, a boutique hotel or mixed-use development." Yves Bradley and Matt Tedder are listed as agents for the property.
The former Ethan Allen Club property
The Ethan Allen Club closed its doors in 2010 after 115 years. Membership was dwindling and the once-powerful organization had trouble shaking its reputation as a bastion of male chauvinism.
Only men could join the club for most of its history and by the 1980s women were unhappy with that. They complained that they were being barred from important business and political deals being hatched over drinks and poker at the private club.
The club initially resisted calls to admit women, prompting some prominent members, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to quit. The club finally allowed women to join in 1990, not long after a satirical protest on the lawn from feminists posing as the “The Ladies Auxiliary of Ladies Against Women.”
The old mansion that housed the club for much of its history burned down in an early morning fire in 1971 and the current structure was erected in 1972.