'We're ecstatic': YMCA in Complexe Guy-Favreau to stay open for at least 1 more year

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'We're ecstatic': YMCA in Complexe Guy-Favreau to stay open for at least 1 more year

The YCMA in the Complexe Guy-Favreau in Montreal's Chinatown district has been saved from imminent closure, after an unexpected gesture from Public Services and Procurement Canada.

The federal government is offering the community centre a lease with a symbolic annual rent of $1 for the coming year, ensuring the Y can stay open until at least May 31, 2018.

Earlier this month, the centre announced it would have to close its doors on May 31 because it can no longer afford to be there. 

The YMCA's rent in the Guy-Favreau basement space was around $240,000 last year.

People who use the YMCA had been calling on the federal government to lower that rent so that the Y can stay open.

"It's wonderful news for us, because this one-year extension will allow us to work with our partners to redefine our vision for the Guy-Favreau YMCA community and sports centre," said Stéphane Vaillancourt, President and CEO of the YMCAs of Québec.  

'Step in the right direction'

Avid gym member Phil Chu circulated a petition asking the government to step in. When he fell on hard financial times a few years ago, the gym allowed him to continue working out, so long as he volunteered with the centre.

"I'm still absorbing it. We're ecstatic. It's definitely a good step in the right direction," he said.

"We're really happy the government is supporting us on this initiative now."

Vaillancourt said the Y is beginning a consultation process to determine whether it can develop a financially viable and sustainable business model. If management is unsuccessful, he said, the centre will close at the end of the new lease.

Gym, meeting place for Chinese community

For the first 20 years of operation, the Guy-Favreau YMCA was paying a symbolic $1 annually to the federal government for its lease.

That deal dates back to 1984, when the federal government expropriated a number of buildings in Chinatown to build the complex, which houses government offices such as Passport Canada.

In exchange, the government offered the YMCA space in the building's basement to manage a gym and community centre for the Chinese community.

Vaillancourt told CBC that the rent's been rising ever since 2006, when that contract expired. Now the premises have become unaffordable.

The YMCA Guy-Favreau has 5,500 annual users and 2,200 of them are YMCA members. Aside from the Chinese community, many federal employees who work in the building attend classes and work out at that Y.