After three years of contention and litigation, the Fulton County YMCA is preparing to convert the recreation space in its former East Fulton Street headquarters into 11 apartments accommodating up to 23 people.
City officials said the application for the building permit was submitted Thursday and YMCA Executive Director Steve Serge said he expects to break ground on the $3.5 million project in April.
A groundbreaking ceremony will be scheduled, he said.
Serge said the project will start with demolition of the pool and gymnasium. The entire project, financed with a $3.5 million grant from the state Office of Temporary Disabilities, should be completed sometime early next year, he said.
“I think in general it will be a wonderful restoration of a downtown building and at the same time we will be meeting a community need,” Serge said of the project.
The expansion of the YMCA’s housing complex will double the number of so-called homeless people. The facility already operates 23 single rooms on its third floor.
Though critics asserted the expansion will attract what they regard as undesirable tenants to the downtown business district, Serge said Friday, “these are all local people.”
Serge said YMCA officials are grateful to the state Office of Temporary Disabilities for preserving the grant during the three years it took to gain city approval.
During that period, the project was rejected twice by city planning and zoning boards and the YMCA filed three lawsuits, one of them a federal court discrimination action seeking $5 million.
The obstacles cleared in October when the parties reached a settlement. The Planning Board then approved the project site plan and special permit and the ZBA voted to issue the variance the YMCA needed to exceed the nine-unit limit for boarding houses located in a commercial zone.
The YMCA insisted its format constitutes apartments, but the two city agencies defined the YMCA proposal as a boarding house.
The living quarters will include 10 two-bedroom units and one with three bedrooms.
In its federal suit, the YMCA accused city officials of manipulating the zoning code to exclude low-income and disabled people, including those recovering from alcohol and substance abuse.
Though the parties settled, Mayor Dayton King proposed an amendment to the zoning code to allow dormitories in a commercial zone. The council has yet to act on that proposal.
But, King said, while the change has no bearing on the YMCA project, it could entice a developer to convert the former Jewish Community Center or the former YWCA into housing. King said downtown dormitories for Fulton-Montgomery Community College might benefit both the city and the college.