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Update - 7/12/23 7:30 a.m: Norfolk City Council approved the deal Tuesday night on a 6-1 vote. Councilman Martin Thomas was the sole dissenting vote but gave no reason for his objection to the deal during the meeting.

Original: The William A. Hunton YMCA, a 145-year-old historically Black organization that has served the residents of the St. Paul’s area public housing communities since the 1950s, finally agreed to sell its property to the City of Norfolk.

The $6.6 million deal includes money to jumpstart fundraising for a new permanent building, $200,000 in moving costs for Hunton as well as $400,000 in rent at a temporary location. 

Hunton’s attorney, Joe Waldo, said there’s a church nearby with space to accommodate Hunton’s operations until the new facility is built at the old Tidewater Park Elementary School location.

He said construction is expected to take about two years. The city documents say Hunton will move out of its existing space by the end of September.

Hunton and the city have been locked in a back-and-forth for three years. 

The city pushed Hunton to sell the property when it began planning for the redevelopment of Tidewater Gardens. Hunton was one of the few remaining lots located in the public housing neighborhood that wasn’t owned by the city and officials at Hunton worried the organization may not survive the redevelopment.

But the folks behind Hunton wouldn’t accept a deal that didn’t let them continue serving the community it’s supported for generations.

“(The Hunton YMCA) was formed ten years after the Civil War at the time duringJim Crow and the very fact that the Hunton Y has survived for over 145 years is not only remarkable, it would seem almost impossible, but they have,” Waldo said. “With the help of the mayor and the city council and many others, they are going to prosper. We hope for another 145 years in a new location.”

Since then, Norfolk has moved ahead with demolishing the Tidewater Gardens apartments that surround Hunton as the YMCA continues to host daycare services and other youth programs.

Tuesday, the city council will vote on whether to approve the deal years in the making.

Norfolk would pay $6.6 million for the Hunton building, according to city documents. Half of that will be held in escrow as a seed for Hunton’s capital campaign to build a new facility. 

The deal would allow Hunton to take over the now-closed Tidewater Park Elementary property at the corner of Brambleton Avenue and Tidewater Drive, enabling it to continue its work in the community it’s served since Reconstruction. City documents say the group would buy about 1.8 acres of the property for $1.

WPA Architects has been contracted to design a new building for Hunton at that location, according to Waldo. He said the plans include a pool.

The current Hunton facility, which the group moved into when Tidewater Gardens was built in the 1950s, is near Tidewater Drive that was built over a filled-in creek bed. The area has been plagued with major flooding issues for decades. The plan is to turn the area into a green space and provide drainage once the area is redeveloped.